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Wings hit the road with dads

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Wings' dads traveled with their sons to Dallas and Phoenix in 2008.
DETROIT – It’s a big weekend for the Red Wings and not just because Sunday’s game in Chicago marks the halfway point in Detroit’s schedule.

Following Thursday’s practice at City Sports Arena, the Wings head to the airport where they embarked on the team’s annual fathers’ trip, which traditionally has been a pretty big deal for the players and their dads.

“It’s always something that we – both players and our dads are looking forward to – it’s a chance for us to give back for what they were doing when we were kids, taking us around,” said captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who’s dad, Jan Erik Lidstrom is on the trip. “And now it’s their chance to see us up close and see how we travel, how we handle ourselves on the road and how we get ready for the games. And we have a fun time doing it, too.”

This year’s trip features a four-day whirlwind journey to a pair of Original Six destinations – Toronto and Chicago – that will include a stop at the Hockey Hall of Fame and a special dinner that will conclude with the fathers and sons watching the Sweden-Russia semifinal of the World Junior Championships.

The dads receive the full experience from sitting in on pre-game meetings with their sons to traveling in luxurious style on Red Bird III.

Lidstrom’s defensive partner, Ian White, is making his first dads’ trip as a member of the Red Wings. He was a rookie with the Maple Leafs when he took his dad, Gerald along, but going this weekend, and visiting the Hall of Fame will be a special occasion for the Whites.

“It will be neat. We’ve actually been there together quite a few times, but it will be a walk down memory lane, so it will be very special,” Ian White said. “He’s obviously been to Toronto quite a few times, but to see it on the reverse side will be good for him.  And then to get to come to the Madhouse in Chicago and get a completely different atmosphere, it’s a special experience all-around.”

The players aren’t the only ones who get to invite their dads along, either. The coaches, trainers and equipment staff also get to experience having their dads see first-hand what they do to get the team prepared for an NHL game.

“It's fun to have them around,” coach Mike Babcock said. “It's a way to say thanks to your dad for everything he's done for you. My dad loves coming on the trips. It's a great thing.”

However, Babcock’s father didn’t make the trip this year, though he’ll be back next year, the Wings’ coach said.

In all, the players, coaches and staff invited 16 dads, three brothers and three friends on this weekend’s trip.

Forward Todd Bertuzzi is one of the guys who brought a hometown friend, Greg Rutledge, who is a quality assurance manager at Sleeman Breweries in Ontario.

“My father's finished building his home and he's heading out to Florida for the rest of the winter,” Bertuzzi said. “He's going to come to the Toronto game and then heading out to Florida, so I got my buddy (Greg) coming in.”
The dads get an in-depth look at how their sons prepare for a game by sitting in on a pre-game meeting, as they did here in Dallas in 2008.
Defensemen Mike Commodore, Niklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart extended invitations to their brothers. In the past, Commodore has brought his dad on the trips. But this year he’s just as excited to have his younger brother, Matt, a software programmer from Calgary, on the trip.

“He’s excited, got a couple of days off of work,” Commodore said. “He’s looking forward to it. He gets to see a couple of pretty good cities. I know he hasn’t been to Chicago before.”

If Commodore’s brother is anything like their father, this trip should be an eye-opening experience for him.

“For my dad, when he would come, the games and stuff are fun, but it was the plane, the travel,” Commodore said. “That’s a nice plane. They’re not used to traveling like that. I remember the first time my dad was sitting on the plane and I could tell just by his face he couldn’t believe it. He didn’t say too much. And the food, he told me you could ride this plane and be like 280 (pounds) by the end of the year. … My brother will get a kick out of too.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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