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Players, Fathers Hope To Continue Winning Ways On 'Dad's Trip'

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
With the National Hockey League’s demanding schedule, players rarely get to see their families on Thanksgiving – Canadian or American. But this week, the Penguins will enjoy the company of their dads for the team’s road trip to Florida and Buffalo when the team hosts its fifth annual ‘Dad’s Trip’.

“It should be fun,” Paul Martin said. “I’ve never been a part of one. I know my dad’s excited, and he’s looking forward to it.”

With their fathers tagging along, the players have a little more motivation to win.

“I think there’s always a little extra incentive for guys, with all the dads getting an opportunity to see day-to-day stuff,” captain Sidney Crosby said.

“You always want to do pretty well when your dad’s watching,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I know they all watch on TV, but it’s a little different when they’re with you.”

For Orpik, whose father has participated in every dad’s trip, this year’s excursion is slightly different. The Buffalo native is returning home with his dad.

“I’m not looking forward to the Buffalo part, I’m looking forward to the Florida part,” Orpik said. “I’m sure my dad is too, since he’s been up in Buffalo.”

“I’ve been on every one, and they’re all different,” Rick Orpik said. “It’s a great thing. There’s a great camaraderie with all the parents, and there’s new parents coming in every year. It’s something I think we all look forward to doing.”

Rick sees the annual trip as validation of all the time, money and energy he put into developing his son into a professional athlete.

“I just think, ‘Thank God getting up at four o’clock in the morning did pay off,’” Rick said. “Brooks has been very successful.”

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Though, like his son, he’s not too thrilled about taking a “road trip” to his hometown.

“It’s always fun to see Brooks play in his hometown,” Rick said. “But I’m not looking forward to the fact that I’m going to be driving back home Thanksgiving morning because my car’s in Pittsburgh.”

While the Orpiks have participated in the trip for five years in a row, several Penguins are looking forward to their first dad’s trip.

“It’s pretty exciting for both of us,” rookie forward Mark Letestu said. “(My father, Garth) actually got in and got to see the Carolina game, so that was his first game he got to see me play live. And then the trip here, it’s something that’s a dream of mine, and I’m sure it is for him to, he’s a proud father. So we’re excited for the whole experience here and to see what it’s all about.”

His father found it difficult to articulate his emotions about getting to travel with his son and see him play.

“There are no words for it,” Garth Letestu said. “It’s just the whole family’s dream come true.

“His commitment has always been there. We never, ever had to convince him to go to bed early, he’s always had it. This is his dream from the time he was three years old and he first put his skates on. This is it, he’s living his dream right now.”

Garth is looking forward to seeing the side of his son’s life that he normally doesn’t have access to.

“Usually that life is his, and we like to leave it that way, it’s his private life,” Garth said “But (the trip) is something to share, Mom’s more mad than anything because she got left behind.”

The Penguins are sporting an impressive 5-3 record throughout the past four dad’s trips, including a 2-0 mark last season, so the team plans on working hard to keep that success alive.

“Guys get up for these ones,” Crosby said. “And we want the dads to be able to come back, so we need to make sure we play well.”

“I think as long as we keep the winning record up, Ray (Shero) said we won’t have to do a mom’s trip,” Brooks Orpik said. “We want to keep the dad’s thing going.”

And so do the fathers.

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