ROMULUS, Mich. – It’s become almost a rite of passage for hockey dads who have sons playing in the National Hockey League.
Heading out on the road for two games to see exactly what their sons go through on a daily basis, the exquisite travel on the team plane, luxurious hotels, morning skates, off-day practices, pre-game meetings, post-game meals, etc.
The Red Wings’ fathers and mentors will see it all in the next four days as the team embarks on a two-game Western Conference trip to Colorado and Arizona.
But for Karl Weiss – the father of a 12-season NHL veteran – this is his first chance to peel back the curtain to his son’s hockey life.
“They didn’t do this in Florida,” said Wings forward Stephen Weiss, who spent his first 10 seasons with the Panthers. “I always heard about teams doing it and I remember once playing against Detroit in Florida (in 2005-06) and they had their Fathers Trip at that time and seeing them all down there at the game. I always wanted to be a part of something like that and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Weiss, who signed a five-year contract with the Red Wings in 2013, was unable to attend last season’s trip. But now, he might be more excited about the trip than his dad.
“We don’t get to see each other that much anymore, especially during the season,” said Weiss, who underwent surgery four days before last season’s trip. “To be able to spend a few days together, especially on the road and for him to see what it’s like for us on a road trip, see the plane and stuff like that, will be pretty special. Not too many people get a chance to see that. He’s really looking forward to it and so am I.”
Riley Sheahan is also new to the Father’s Trip. But like Weiss, the Red Wings’ young center is amped for the in-season bonding time with his dad, Mike, who is a physical education consultant for the school board back in his hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario.
“He’s definitely pumped and I’m excited to have him come,” Sheahan said. “When you can share the experience with someone who means so much to you it means a lot. For him to get to see some of the behind the scenes stuff and different experiences we have it’s definitely pretty cool.”
Because his hometown is a short drive from downtown Detroit, Sheahan gets to see his parents and sister on occasion as they make it to many home games at Joe Louis Arena. But having his dad on the road is more meaningful.
“This will be special,” Sheahan said. “He is my biggest supporter. Both my parents and my sister mean so much to me and they’ve helped so much. I think he’s really excited to kind of meet some of the guys and get to know what happens on the road and get to see the different things, how we prepare for games and stuff like that. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
This is the second time that Joakim Andersson has invited someone to join him on the road. Last season it was his older brother. But this time around it’s his father, Jan-Ove Andersson, who made the trek from Sweden.
“He’s going to have a blast,” Andersson said. “He’s been here a couple times to watch games at home, but it’s going to be different for him to see what it’s like on trips. He’s excited to see what it’s like for us, like in the hotel, on the plane and how we prepare for games. I remember last year they were in the meetings with the coaches. It’s an all-around thing to see what it’s like for us on the road.”
Then there are trip veterans, like James Howard, who wouldn’t miss a chance to bond with his son and reunite with the other dads.
“He’s got quite a few (trips) under his belt and he always looks forward to it,” Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. “He always likes coming back and seeing the dads again, the ones he’s met on previous trips and reuniting that friendship.”