Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo wasn't aware Sept. 10 was National Grandparents Day. In fact, he didn't know it was a holiday at all, but he's glad he does now.
"I think they should be recognized like parents, mothers and fathers, because they play an important role in a lot of kids' lives growing up too," DeAngelo told NYRangers.com.
DeAngelo knows first-hand how big of a role they can play for a youngster. He said he's very close to his grandparents - "I talk to them probably more than the average person does to their grandparents to be honest" - and it was his grandpa Lou who was along for most of the rides to and from the rink, for practices and games, while DeAngelo was growing up playing hockey in southern New Jersey.
"He loved it. He loved being around the game," DeAngelo said. "He did the same thing for my brother, too. Any time my parents were working, or even weren't working, he was at almost every single practice, every single game for both of us. Even if there were two games that day, he'd try to make both."
DeAngelo, 21, recalls the trips to the rink when his family would meet Lou - affectionately nicknamed 'Seeds' - at a WaWa on their way to skate. He'd hop in the car and take his spot to watch his grandsons do what they loved to do.
Fast forward some years, and Lou got the chance to see DeAngelo make his National Hockey League debut last season in Arizona, a moment DeAngelo cherishes.
"It was awesome. I made sure that he was going to be able to get out there," DeAngelo said. "I was hoping all four [grandparents] were able to, but different things came up in different ways. [Lou] wouldn't have missed it for the world, and I made sure that no matter what, we were going to get him out there."
Distance made more visits difficult, but the communication from grandfather to grandson never ceased. There was always the texts from Lou before every game with his mantra that always puts a smile on DeAngelo's face: "Play hard, skate fast and have fun."
"I talk to my grandparents every day," DeAngelo said with a laugh. "He texts me after every game. If I don't give him a call after the game - which especially playing in Arizona last year was hard because it was almost 1:30 in the morning when we were done - I'll call him the next day or the next afternoon. There's always a text after every game."
That, though, won't be a problem this year following the June trade that sent DeAngelo east to the Rangers, making in-person visits easier and more frequent.
"Now he can hop on the train and see some games live."
While Lou may have been the rink rat in the group, DeAngelo said all his grandparents shaped him in different ways. From Lou's wife Joann - nicknamed JoJo - to his mother's parents, Anthony - or Melzy - and Regina, otherwise known as Reggie, all played a role in helping DeAngelo get to where he is today.
"I want to thank them for everything they do for me, on both sides," he said. "They played an important role for me, in my life and in my career. The mean a lot to me. I love them all and it's nice that I'll be closer to home now so they can make it to some games."