Photo by Len Redkoles
Predators goaltender Chris Mason with his father, Paul, prior to leaving on this season's "Dads' Trip."
Not only are the Nashville Predators in the midst of a two-game road trip that will take them to Philadelphia and St. Louis over the course of three nights, but a majority of the players and staff have their dads along for the ride. The Predators' annual "Dads' Trip" is under way, and 23 fathers departed Nashville Tuesday afternoon with their sons for the outing, which has been a Predators tradition since the franchise's inaugural year.
"I think it's great for the dads to get to know each other and to just kind of see what a day in our life is like," Nashville center Scott Nichol said Monday. Nichol, who was rehabbing a broken foot at the time of last season's trip, will be participating with his father, Don, for the first time as a Predator. In addition to shadowing their sons, the fathers will also be rooming with them for the trip.
"They come in the meetings and everything," Scott Nichol said. "[Head coach Barry Trotz] and the coaching staff and the organzation are real good about that. If they're going to come, they might as well experience it all. I was telling some of the guys we're going to have to get a big bowl of ear plugs. I think every dad in here snores. It might be a couple of late nights."
One dad for whom the timing is ideal is Paul Mason. His son, goaltender Chris Mason, has just stepped into the No. 1 role for a four- to six-week period while Tomas Vokoun recovers from hand surgery.
"When you have a son that's a goaltender, it is exciting because I realize for him it's an opportunity that he wants," Paul Mason said, standing near his son's stall in the Predators' practice facility Monday. "I know he would play every game if he could. On the other hand, it does cause permanent hair loss, when they're playing Detroit and I found out [he would be starting as I was] coming down for that game. As we all saw it worked out well. The team played really well."
For the elder Mason, who has been on the trip twice before, it's an opportunity to see what a day in the life of his son is like.
"It's just interesting to see how different it is than the average joe's normal lifestyle," Paul Mason said. "One of the things you do realize when you go through the process is that I think everybody wishes they could be playing pro sports or doing this or doing that, but it's a lot of work. It's not just something that's on a platter and you just enjoy every moment. They do enjoy every moment but they work for it. And they give up a lot to get there."
Paul Mason cites the team dinner as a favorite moment from past trips. "They usually ask the parent and the son to get up and say something that has either made you proud of your father or your son, or it could be a funny story. From year to year it's different. It's really a real bonding moment when you see these great big strapping hockey players and people get pretty emotional. It's pretty touching. That's had a major impact."
He also enjoys the opportunity to interact with team management as well as the other fathers, who share similar experiences as the parents of professional hockey players.
"It's unfortunate that all parents don't get to do that in parts of their kids' lives, no matter what career they chose," Paul Mason said. "It's really special. It's probably one of the most important trips I ever do in my life."