The days of popping out of bed before sunrise may have subsided, but Ryan Johansen's passion for the game of hockey is just as strong today as when he was a peewee player back in British Columbia.
And his father, Randall, still feels the same way, too.
The elder Johansen, along with his wife, Rosalind, recently made the journey through the state of California as the Preds made stops in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose, in what has become an annual excursion for the Canadian residents. Seeing their first-born perform at the game's highest level never gets old.
"We're a crazy hockey family like a lot of families up in Canada," Mr. Johansen said. "It's our favorite sport and it's amazing the transition from his bantam levels to his junior levels and still being able to transition that to the pro level; that's the most amazing part to me, is that Ryan is able to keep elevating his game, to be able to play his game."
It all started outside of Vancouver when Ryan was a boy, chasing the dream that every young hockey player has. According to his father, it was never an issue to get Ryan going in the morning when there was a fresh sheet of ice waiting.
"He was crazy about hockey, so if he had a 6 a.m. hockey practice, he wanted to be there at 5:30 to go on the ice," Mr. Johansen said. "You want them to be like that, to have that kind of passion. We just loved it."
"My dad was always the guy, if there was a 5:30 a.m. practice before school, he'd be willing to take me at 5 if I wanted to go early, and he'd be up there watching me," Ryan said. "I was always the guy who wanted to do it, but he would always be supportive. He wasn't like, 'ah, come on, we can stay in bed another 10 minutes.'"
Once Ryan was on the ice, the skill level continued to grow. The Johansen's always hoped that there might be a chance for Ryan to make it professionally one day, but there eventually came a time when those hopes seemed like they had a legitimate shot at morphing into reality.
"When he played in the British Columbia Hockey League for the Penticton Vees, there were a lot of guys who were rated quite high in the NHL Draft that year," Mr. Johansen said. "I thought to myself, being a biased dad of course, watching everything your son does, that he can do the same things that the other guys are doing out there and he's 16 and they're 18 and 19."
The hunch turned out to be true, and after a successful junior career with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets took Ryan with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Fast forward six years later, and Johansen is entering his first full season in Nashville, a spot that both father and son are quite content with.
"This is his sixth year already, which I can't believe," Mr. Johansen said. "Honestly, when your kid is drafted into the NHL, you don't care where he plays, you're just so happy. But now, we love the city of Nashville, we love the music, everything is good."
"I'm sure he'll be making some more trips down to Nashville and planning out some more things once maybe he retires in the next year or two and he's able to have some more time to do things," Ryan said of his father. "I might not be able to get him to leave."
It may not be long before Mr. Johansen has more than one NHL player to keep track of - his son, and Ryan's younger brother, Lucas, was taken 28th overall by Washington in the 2016 Draft. It's yet to be determined how the emotions would play out if the two are to ever face off against each other one day, but all the early morning practices and late-night games would come full circle.
"He just loves seeing me and my little brother have a passion for this game," Ryan said. "He just loves watching me do the things that I love, and I'm very thankful for that."
Time has flown for the Johansen's, and it still doesn't seem like that long ago when Ryan was jumping out of bed to go play. Of course there is immense pride for Mr. Johansen to see his son performing at the game's top level, but it's the transformation into the kind of person Ryan has become that provides the highest gratification.
"Just to see him mature, doing things in the community, they're involved and visiting hospitals, that kind of stuff makes me the most proud," Mr. Johansen said. "Using it for other channels besides the sport is just awesome."
It's not easy to tell who enjoys the experience more - the parents in the stands, or the son on the ice. But all the time in an ice rink has been time well spent.
And a crazy hockey family wouldn't have it any other way.
"You take it for granted somedays that you play in the NHL, and every time people's parents come to town, it's always so special," Ryan said. "I always mark those on the calendar when he gets to come out and watch me, because there's nothing he loves more than watching his two boys play hockey. He and my mom have been enjoying the ride so far."