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Preds Thankful to Make New Memories on Fathers Trip

Annual Trip Gives Players Chance to Share Time with Dad in NHL

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

There's a certain quip that Craig Smith and his father, Kevin, like to share when this trip rolls around every year.

"We always joke that the NHL stands for 'Never Hungry League,'" the younger Smith laughed. "They get fed pretty good on the trip."

The Smiths, along with the rest of the Predators players and their fathers - a handful with uncles or grandfathers instead- will be eating well and enjoying the company together on the team's annual Fathers Trip over the next three days with games on the road against the Blues and Hurricanes.

An excursion now taken by seemingly every team in the League, the trip is a staple in the Preds organization, allowing a chance for players and their fathers a chance to experience life in the NHL together, to see their sons live out their childhood dreams.

The Smiths are veterans of the trip, with Craig playing in Nashville since the 2011-12 season. The Josi duo - Roman and his father, Peter - are reaching that level of experience, too. The elder Josi will make the journey from Switzerland again this year, and for the Predators captain, playing in front of his father is a feeling like no other.

"We're so thankful for everything they did for us, and it's great to share those moments with our dads," Josi said. "It's probably the best feeling in the world because you want your family to be proud of you and you really can feel that when they're watching. It's definitely one of the best feelings in the world."

Defenseman Anthony Bitetto is looking forward to experiencing that feeling once more after an injury prevented him from partaking in last year's trip. It will be the second time he and his father, Brian, have shared the adventure, and the blueliner is focused on savoring the opportunity this time around.

"The first time we went, it kind of happened so fast that you don't really get to enjoy it as much as you can," Bitetto said. "I think this time around, we'll kind of take the moment in. There's not a bad thing about it…and Nashville does a really good job with it."

It'll be a different dynamic this year for Ryan Johansen, as his father, Randall, will be back home in British Columbia due to a work conflict. Instead, one of Randall's best friends, Lyle Langlois, who is like an uncle to Ryan, will join in on the fun.

"He feels like family, so he's pretty pumped to get this opportunity and I'm excited to have him out," Ryan said of Langlois. "It's obviously a really special time for all those dads to get together and cheer us on, and at the same time, it's always motivating for us players to go out there and get results for them and show them that we're winners. We're pretty pumped to get the trip started."

So off they'll go to St. Louis, and then Carolina, making new memories that began back in the days of mite hockey - the early morning drives to the rink, lacing up the skates and fathers watching their sons feel the rush that can only come with being on the ice.

That jubilance comes on a grander stage now, but the same pride is still there, for all parties involved. Plus, a couple of extra snacks thrown in.

"You don't get a lot of time to see each other throughout the year, and as much as it's cool being around Nashville, I think it's really important that we get some dad-and-son time," Smith said. "You just don't get to see him as much as you used to.

"It seems like we're talking about everything but hockey when we're on the trip because we're having fun and kind of turning into kids. I feel like we rewind the clock about 20 years."

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