When a kid grows up and makes it to the National Hockey League, chances are his parents will be able look back on some early indications that they had a hockey player on their hands. In the case of Ryan Strome, it was really, really early.
"When Ryan was born, my husband was singing the 'Hockey Night in Canada' theme song, out loud," Trish Strome confided on Tuesday. "Ryan came home wrapped in an NHL blanket. So maybe there were some signs."
Trish Strome was speaking while standing rinkside on Tuesday afternoon, as just a few feet away on the other side of the glass her son Ryan was practicing with the Rangers. This practice was not just any practice -- this was the official start of the Rangers' Moms Trip 2020. It includes important games to be played in Chicago and Carolina as the Blueshirts move into the final quarter of their 2019-20 schedule; but it is a trip that stands out because of the important people who are on it.
For Trish Strome, one of 19 moms in the Rangers' traveling party, that means "just getting to know the other moms and seeing how the other moms are, and also knowing who Ryan's friends are on the team -- he talks about them all the time," she said. "It just seems like a really close-knit team. So it'll be nice just to see him around those guys for a little while."
"As kids, our whole dream is to play in the NHL," Ryan Strome said. "They invested their time, and their money, and so much else into helping us to live our dream. To share it with them for a couple days is what's really exciting for us."
All told, Trish Strome wound up having three hockey players on her hands, and their career paths in the sport will put Mom in a somewhat unusual spot on Wednesday night. Her youngest, Matthew, is a 21-year-old prospect in the Flyers organization; her eldest, Ryan, sat beside her Tuesday on the team flight to the Windy City, where on Wednesday night she will sit with her fellow Rangers Moms watching the Blueshirts square off against her middle son, Dylan, and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Trish Strome knows, though, exactly where she stands.
"I'm a Rangers fan this week, I will be cheering for the Rangers," she said, quickly adding: "But I'll be cheering for Dylan, too -- just Dylan."
Having their moms at practice on Tuesday had many players reflecting on all that they owe to their parents, not least of all Brett Howden, who was recalling leaving home at 16 years old to pursue his path in junior hockey in the Western League. He remembers the excitement surrounding the games when his parents, Sheldon and Krystal, would make the trip from Winnipeg to see him play in Moose Jaw, as they did for his older brother, Quinton, too.
Howden was an NHL rookie last season when his father joined the Rangers' Dads Trip to Florida.
"He could not wipe the smile off his face, he had a blast," Howden said. "He was videotaping everything, making sure he got everyone in pictures, always had his camera with him. When my dad went home he was trying to explain everything to my mom, like how everything works and what the day-to-day stuff is like -- and so now she gets to be able to see it, so she's really excited for this and so am I."
And so is Tony DeAngelo, who expects his mom, Gina, to exert a positive influence on the team. "I think it'll help everybody's game a little bit," DeAngelo said on Tuesday. "It's funny with the moms: You never play bad with the mothers. You go on the Dads Trip and you have a bad game, he's staring you down when you get off the ice. The moms will say, 'Nice game' -- they act like it's the greatest thing in the world no matter what happens. So it's going to be good to have them."
The Strome family keeps in close touch throughout the hockey season, which has given both Ryan's parents more than a few opportunities for a 'Nice game' -- in the Rangers' most recent one, Ryan had an assist that was his 50th point of 2019-20, matching his career high from when he was in his second NHL season with the Islanders. It has been that way ever since Ryan joined the Rangers in a trade from Edmonton 15 months ago -- a day Trish Strome remembers well for the suspense of it all.
"We didn't know when he got the call where he was traded to -- all (the Oilers) said was 'Don't go on the plane, you've been traded,'" Trish recalled of the Nov. 16, 2018 deal. "As he was waiting to find out, we were actually getting onto a plane to go to Arizona to see my Dylan, he was playing in Arizona at the time, and that afternoon when we left Ryan got traded. So we waited and waited and finally he goes, 'I'm going to New York,' and we thought 'Back to the Islanders?' He says, 'Rangers,' and we're like, 'Oh my gosh. That's perfect.'
"He loves it here, he feels like he belongs here and has felt that way from the beginning. And it's only an hour-and-20-minute plane ride from Toronto, so I like it that he's so close."
So while all that has happened may put Trish Strome in an unusual spot watching two sons oppose each other Wednesday night, she will not even be alone in that regard on this Moms Trip: Marc Staal's mom, Linda, is planning to meet the Rangers' traveling party in Raleigh, because she has to split her time among two Moms Trip this week, the first accompanying the Carolina Hurricanes to Nashville. On Friday night she will watch Marc and his little brother Jordan line up opposite one another, hardly for the first time in their lives or in their NHL careers, in the Rangers-Canes game.
"The road trips and the rinks and all that stuff, and they get to kind of compare notes -- I think all of that's enjoyable for them," Marc Staal said. "And this organization does just a great job of setting everything up. It's nice to have the chance to give that back to them after all the hard work and just everything they put into raising us. It's always special."
As for allegiances, Marc Staal offered an answer a mother could love. "They don't really take sides so much, and this should be no different for her because she's used to it by now," the 13th-year blueliner said. "They always just want us to play well and be safe."