I can still remember taking Colton to pick out his first hockey jersey like it was yesterday.
Growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia, he was already playing hockey, as a young, Canadian boy does. So, one day, I decided to take him to the store and led him to the rack full of NHL jerseys. I told him he could pick any team he wanted.
And guess what he chose.
When Colton heard his name called by the Nashville Predators in the 2012 NHL Draft, our family was overjoyed. And as soon as we got back home, my wife went upstairs to his room and dug the tiny Predators jersey out of the closet.
Perhaps it was fate.
Here we are on our second Fathers Trip, Colton and I, along with all of the other Predators dads, watching our sons live out their dream in the best hockey league in the world. Surreal? You could say that.
It really is overwhelming to say the least. It often still doesn't resonate very intensely with me that I even have a son in the NHL. But as I watched him and his teammates shut out the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, that feeling hit me again - and immense sense of pride for my son, just as all the other dads in the suite shared for their own kin as well.
Colton must have been five the first time I took him to a public skate at our local rink, and then hockey equipment followed soon after. In those first couple of years, there wasn't much of a distinction between he and the other players, just lots of falling down and getting back up.
But then he started to get better. At age 12, we went with his peewee team to the renowned Quebec Peewee tournament, one of my favorite experiences of his youth.
At 15, he moved away to go play in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League in Kelowna, and that was the first time I felt like he might actually have a chance to make something of this whole hockey thing.
From there, he went to play for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League, and I'll never forget the phone call he made to the house to tell us he had just been named the youngest captain in team history.
He was so laid back about it, too. He says, "You're talking with the new captain of the Kelowna Rockets," and I don't think I better tell you what my response was. It won't be good for public consumption.
Once he joined the Predators organization, he went to play in Milwaukee for the Admirals, also named the youngest captain in their history. I'm not entirely sure where they leadership traits come from, but he just leads by example. He's a really just good person that cares about his teammates immensely.
He got his first call to Nashville and then started to enter the lineup more regularly, which allowed us to take our first Fathers Trip together last season, wins in Philadelphia and New Jersey. It was a great time.
And then the springtime came around. We never could have imagined the spectacular run the team would go on, especially in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against Anaheim.
My wife and I were watching back home in B.C. at my daughter's house with her boyfriend. When Colton scored his first goal of the game, we were all running around. It would be embarrassing to have the video of that.
But then he scored another. And he got the hat trick late in the third period, the goal that punched the ticket to the Final. After the game was over, we realized what happened and it was just quiet, silence, just sitting there in disbelief of what went on. That was a fun postgame phone call to receive.
We were able to come to Nashville for the Final, and wow, do Preds fans know how to throw a party.
It's just over the top. If I go to an NHL game in another rink, you can't compare the atmospheres. It's just second to none in Nashville. Everyone in Vancouver that I talk to wants to know about how things are there, and I tell them that you just have to go to witness the whole production.
It was so tough to see it end the way it did - a couple of bounces here or there and we're telling a different story. It took some time for me to get over it, and I know that was true for Colton, too. But then you start to get that feeling in your stomach that you just want to get back at it and continue on and try for another. And with this team, it's not hard to believe they can do it.
Of course, there's still plenty of season to go before that can happen again, but it's such a privilege to be able to play a small part in the journey on this trip.
The Predators organization, from top to bottom, is first class. I can't express how much I enjoy this experience, but to also be able to share it with my son, it's just fantastic. Having the chance to meet all of his teammates and their fathers is something I'll never forget and I hope I can do it for years to come.
Not only the guys on this team, but hockey players in general, the humility and the humbleness of the individuals is really a unique thing, and that's what I like to tell people. Colton is a better human being for the fact that he's played hockey and sports his whole life.
Who would have thought that day in the store with all the different jerseys would be so telling of the future. Life can be funny that way.
Now, I get to see my son wear that logo in the NHL. And I'm just so damn proud.