DETROIT – A little misty eyed, Linda DeKeyser spoke passionately about her son’s upbringing and his determination to follow a dream.
“He always had an ability, a hockey ability, but you know, he just always had to work real hard,” she said.
But as the words left her lips, she was quick to amend her comments.
“Like all players,” she added, “all players have to work hard.”
Like all NHL moms, Linda knows the lengths that her son, Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser, went to become a professional hockey player.
As part chauffeur, part counselor, she was often there to drop off and pick up at practices. And she was always by her son’s side when things didn’t go according to plan, like the few times he was cut from a youth team.
“Playing travel hockey with very late nights, coming back on a Sunday night and up for school very early in the morning,” Linda said. “Homework with a flashlight in the back of the van. ... He stuck with it.”
Like their hockey-playing sons, moms have paid their dues, too, helping juggle school commitments and game schedules, all while keeping things together at home, preparing meals, doing laundry, and making sure homework gets done.
Moms don’t become moms to receive awards. But this week, the current group of Red Wings’ moms will get a big thank you from their hockey-playing sons.
For years, the Red Wings have taken their fathers and other male mentors on an annual road trip during the NHL regular season. But this year it’s the mothers’ turn, and Linda DeKeyser couldn’t be more excited for the two-day trip to Florida to see the Wings faceoff against the Lightning and Panthers on Wednesday and Thursday.
“To be able to go on this moms’ trip, it’s the first ever, and I’m a part of it, and my son’s here,” she said, “I mean, you can’t buy a trip like this. You have to earn this and it’s all God’s blessings.”
Captain Henrik Zetterberg said the moms have assistant coach Tony Granato to thank for this year’s invite.
“This is something we’re looking forward to,” said Zetterberg, whose mom Ulla is on the trip. “We heard other teams do moms’ trips. I think Tony Granato really wanted to do this. A lot of moms probably have to thank him because he was the push that made this happen.”
The Wings left Detroit on Tuesday afternoon, accompanied on Red Bird III by 23 guests, including 18 of their mothers. Also joining the Wings entourage are two wives, a mother-in-law, a billet mom, and a sister.
Six moms traveled to Detroit from Europe this week to be with their sons, including Ingeborg Kronwall, Eva Nyquist, Susanne Andersson, Maria Tatarova and Lenka Mrazokova.
|Henrik Zetterberg and his mom, Ulla, pose for a photo in front of the captain's dressing room stall on Tuesday morning. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings) |
Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is thrilled for his mom (Susanne Andersson), but probably more so because she’ll get an extra four days to spend with her granddaughter following the Florida trip.
“When I told her we’re having a moms’ trip instead she was really happy and very excited over the phone,” Ericsson said. “She also has a chance to see my wife and my daughter. She has a lot of them (grandchildren) but she doesn’t get to see Liv as much as the other kids.”
Other moms on this week’s trip are Natalie Granato, Sheryl Abdelkader, Leslie Glendening, Koriene Helm, Lynda Howard, Denise Larkin, Debra Quincey, June Richards, Margaret Sheahan, and Deirdre Sheeran, who is Brendan Smith’s mom.
Wings GM Ken Holland and goaltending coach Jim Bedard brought their wives, Cindi and Arja, while Pavel Datsyuk took his mother-in-law, Liubov Bykova, and defenseman Mike Green is accompanied by his billet mom, Joan Dietz.
Four years ago as an assistant on the Wings’ coaching staff, Jeff Blashill brought his dad, Jim, on the fathers’ trip. This time around he wanted to take his mom, Marie, but she wasn’t up to it physically.
“My dad did go and was not happy at all that this wasn’t a fathers’ trip,” said Blashill, who is joined this week by his sister Deborah. “I think that’s probably universal among a lot of the fathers. It was a neat experience. It was a great thing for us to be able to share the inside of our world on a day-to-day basis. Certainly my dad follows my life as do the rest of my siblings real closely but to see it from the inside is a neat thing.”
June Richards has shared in two Stanley Cup celebrations with her son Brad – in Tampa Bay in 2004 and Chicago in 2015 – but she was beginning to think the privilege of joining him on a behind-the-scenes road trip like this would never develop.
On two occasions, June said, Brad’s teams had proposed moms’ trips planned for the following season. However, Brad wasn’t around the next year for his mom to enjoy either trip.
“When Brad told me we were going I said, ‘thank God’, you know, before he retires,” she said. “I finally get to go on it. … It’s kind of exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”
A lot of the trip’s itinerary revolves around the Wings’ packed schedule with morning skates and games to follow. However, the team plans to squeeze in a mothers/son dinner tonight in Tampa, as well as a dolphin-watching cruise in the Gulf of Mexico for the moms on Wednesday afternoon.
Still, some moms are just as exciting to spend whatever time they can with their sons over the next couple of days.
“I know kind of what his routine is, but to actually be there will be fun,” Sheryl Abdelkader said. “This is very special and I think that’s the thing I’m looking forward to the most, just to have the time with him, because when we do come down to a game it’s very limited time with him. We usually come down early and have lunch with him, but lunch is always rushed.”
The Wings’ first ever road excursion with the moms will sail by quickly too. Sheryl Abdelkader just hopes this isn’t the group’s first and only trip.
“We better behave ourselves,” she said kiddingly, “so we get asked back again.”