"It was pretty crazy," Erne recalled in a phone interview. "I wouldn't say I was that nervous. I feel like my wife (Elodie) was just so prepared that whatever I didn't know how to do, she was just going to teach me. She's just been so good. She's done all her research and she's really kind of taken it in stride. Luckily, Riley's pretty darn easy. She doesn't really cry for much unless she needs a bottle or whatever. Especially in the beginning, she slept through the night, she was giving us 10-11 hours of sleep, I swear.
"She's kind of going downhill now, she's transitioning from the bassinet to her crib so she wakes up a little bit more. She gets up once, has a bottle, then she gets up at 6:30, has another bottle and then goes back to sleep for an hour and a half or so. That's a big hour and a half from 7-8:30, kind of gives us a little bit extra. It was awesome."
The Wings were home at the time so Erne was at Little Caesars Arena when he got the word that Riley was on her way.
"I remember it was the day before the game, Piet (Van Zant, head athletic therapist) came up, I was at the rink and we were in a video meeting and he was like, 'Yeah, you gotta head to the hospital,'" Erne said. "I knew it was around her due date, it was a little early but I knew it could be any day. So I headed over to the hospital and she was already in the room. It was a pretty smooth process. We were there for probably, I think we were there 20 hours but I think she only ended up pushing for like, 20 minutes. It was quick. It was really smooth."
Although it was still before the due date, Erne was able to tell their families to start making their way to Detroit.
"Because it was a little early, my parents weren't there right away. They came in a day or two later, flew in, because they obviously had work," Erne said. "My brother (Jason, 21) and sister (Emily, 20) hopped on a flight as soon as I told them. I was at the hospital and they made it. (Elodie's) mom actually flew to Toronto and then drove from there. She made it by like an hour, which was awesome. It was probably as smooth as I could have hoped. She was super healthy and so was my wife."
Riley was born at 2:14 a.m., a little more than 17 hours before the Wings hosted the Montreal Canadiens.
"I think the baby was born at 2 o'clock in the morning and I spent the night at the hospital and then we played Montreal that night and I ended up playing," Erne said. "We actually ended up winning (4-3). I got the assist on the game-winner there to (Filip) Zadina so it was a pretty cool time. I stole the puck and I kind of left it in her room. So it was a cool couple days. It's been pretty smooth and I have no complaints."
The Wings had a few road trips after Riley was born but fortunately, his wife did have some assistance.
"Her mom was actually able to stay down for three weeks right away so we had some help from her mom and that was great," Erne said. "So that gave my wife definitely an extra set of hands. For the first week or two, everybody was in and out seeing the baby but her mom was there for the full two-three weeks, I think it was. So my parents were in and out, my brother and sister. She had an extra set of hands so she got the hang of it. I'm sure it was tough but luckily for us, she was a good sleeper. At that point, they kind of just eat, sleep and poop so that's what she was doing."
As it is his first child, Erne has had to learn to do some of the less exciting things like changing diapers.
"I'm pretty good," Erne said. "I kind of hand off the poop diapers but I'm good with the rest."
Riley is more than five months old now and changing all the time.
"I think in the beginning, it sounds bad but it was kind of boring," Erne said. "But after a couple weeks, they get a month old, you start to see her figure out how to move, how to make noise. Now she's starting to sit up by herself and she just doesn't stop making noise and you start to see her personality develop. You see her kind of develop traits from both of us. The way she looks kind of changes a little bit. So it's really fun. I have a blast with her now. My wife's just awesome with her, helping her develop the way she needs to. Super lucky to have her be as good as she is with Riley. It's just been a lot of fun.
"It's been the upside to everything that's happened with the season is that I've had so much more time with her than I probably would have had. Obviously grateful for that. It seems like every day something new, something a little bit better than the day before. When you go on the road for a week, you miss a lot of that."
As soon as the NHL paused the season, Erne and his family returned to Connecticut, where he bought a house last summer.
His parents, Tricia and Erik, are not too far away and his sister, Emily, also is close by.
"My brother moved out to California for work so he doesn't come home too much," Erne said. "Actually, I think the last time I saw him was maybe a month after Riley was born. He came out when she was born and then like a month later, obviously all this started to happen so I haven't seen him since. But as soon as it kind of clears up and it feels like it's safe to travel home, he's going to do that. My sister's in college at Connecticut so she's around a lot. She's actually going to school for childhood education so she's really good with Riley, she's over all the time with my mom. She's a big help to us."
This Sunday will mark Erne's first Father's Day as a dad. Getting to spend Father's Day with his baby girl and with his own dad is something special.
"I'm excited for sure," Erne said. "My dad always looks forward to Father's Day. It's one of those holidays he always looks forward to. His father, my grandfather, is not around anymore so he likes to spend it with me and my sister, my brother, he lives out in California now so he's not going to make it home with all that's going on. It's kind of a day we look forward to to spend it together. We're going to go golfing in the morning, I got him hooked on golf last summer so he's got the golf bug.
"Then we're going to head back to my house and I know my wife's got it all set up, she doesn't really want to tell me what we're doing. But I know a few of my buddies and my dad and my sister's going to come over and we're going to spend the day together. I think more than anything, we look forward to spending time together because now that we're a bit older, me and my sister and my brother, we're kind of off doing our own thing. When it comes to Father's Day, Christmas, the holidays, we just look forward to spending it together."
Erne said his dad was always there for him and his siblings as they were growing up.
"He just kind of supported me with whatever I wanted to do," Erne said. "He just pushed me to be the best, whatever I was trying to do. Some people looked at him as sometimes hard when it came to hockey but I'm super happy that he wasn't just letting me slack off or whatever. I always loved hockey, I played it all year, I never played anything else. I just wanted to play hockey, more in the summer than I did in the season.
"He always asked me, 'What's your dreams? What's your dreams?' It was always that I wanted to play in the NHL. I think he made it his mission to do whatever he had to do to put me in the position to succeed, whether that was sometimes not doing what everyone else was doing, whether it was swimming before the games or playing mini hockey in the hallways, I think he always saw me as a little bit different than the other kids and he wanted to make sure that I always had my mind set right, that I was never risking getting hurt but at the same time, still having fun. I think growing up, a lot of parents probably saw him as a little bit hard when it came to me, not letting me do a lot of what the other kids were doing, but at the end of the day, it was what I needed to do to get where I'm at now."
Erne said he doesn't feel like he missed out on much, especially now that he is where he dreamed of being, playing in the NHL.
"I wouldn't have changed any of it and I think it just made us grow a lot closer and we definitely bonded over hockey and the trips and tournaments and practices," Erne said. "My grandfather, his father, came to all my games and they kind of came together so I think between the three of us, that really bonded us and that's something we really enjoyed doing together. I think he kind of lived it through me. He played hockey growing up, he was a goalie, he played high school, didn't play past high school. He played high school hockey with Chris Drury and Ted Drury so he always played at a pretty competitive level. But at the end of the day he ended up going to school and moved on from hockey. Obviously it was his dream to be in the NHL and when he saw me have the opportunity, at a young age being pretty good, I think he just wanted to make sure that I wasn't letting that go and letting it slip away."
Erne said his dad didn't put on the pads and offer to let Erne shoot at him.
"He never did," Erne said. "I actually wanted to be a goalie when I was younger, I think everybody did. But as a goalie, he always said, 'There's only two goalie spots and two player spots so if you're going to make it, you got a better chance of being a player. So I guess he was right. We've been on the ice together but not as a goalie. He just really enjoyed taking me to the rink and watching me skate. He was always there."
Now Erne gets to see his dad as a grandfather to Riley, a kind of full-circle moment.
"It's pretty cool. I don't think it really hit him until he finally held her," Erne said. "I don't think he processed the fact that he was going to be a grandpa. He had me when he was 24 and I had Riley when I was 24, so he's pretty young, he's now 49, so he's pretty young, my mom's the same age. That's why I wanted to have Riley at a younger age, just because I enjoy being able to do things like go golf. He's still young enough where he's still friends with my friends, we all hang out together and we'll go out, have a couple drinks and we'll go out and get some bites to eat with my buddies.
"So I enjoy doing that with him and that's what I wanted to be able to do with Riley. It's really cool. He's awesome with her. It's his first grandchild so she's super spoiled. He loves it, he's awesome with her."
While Erne's parents are required by grandparent law and privilege to spoil Riley, which Erne said they are great at, he admits it's hard not to do so himself with his precious little girl.
"I think I'm going to have to work at not spoiling her," Erne said. "I think it's going to be tough. I think it's going to be tough to tell her no."