Hockey players are habitual. Eat the same thing after the morning pregame skate. Take an afternoon nap. Put on the right skate first. Wear a certain T-shirt underneath the shoulder pads.
But for three Sharks players, life, as they’ve known it, has changed over the last 12-plus months. Ryane Clowe
and his fiancé welcomed a girl as part of their family last February. In October, Joe Pavelski
and his wife had their first child, a son, in October. And Joe Thornton
and his wife became first-time parents of a daughter this past July.
“I don’t get my naps anymore in the afternoon on practice days,” Clowe said. “Now, it’s all about her. I play with her for a couple of hours and take her for walks. You look forward to coming home every day and spending time with her. She’s got much more energy. It tires you out more. You have to chase her around all the time.”
“We’re still doing a lot of the same things. He has his routine and we have ours. He’s just part of our family,” Pavelski said. “When we go grocery shopping, he’ll go with us. We’ll bring him everywhere we go. It’s as simple as that.”
“You used to go home, go to lunch and watch a movie,” Thornton said. “Now, you can still go to lunch but you have to add one more person.” And having the baby over the summer gave Thornton a little more time to adjust. “Having our daughter in July gave me a couple of months to get used to the sleeping patterns,” he said. “She sleeps pretty good, so really no complaints.”
While what Clowe, Pavelski and Thornton have said sounds rather simple, one can see smiles on their faces, a gleam in their eyes and hear warmth in their voices when they describe their new experiences with fatherhood.
“It’s excting,” Pavelski said. “One of the first things you do when you get home or when you get up in the morning is to go and get the kid. He’s always got a smile for you. There’s times when you’re laying in bed and you don’t worry about getting up a little earlier.”
While the three new dads are proud to be fathers, they also realize how much their significant others do to help them play hockey, especially on game days.
“On game day, the wife really does a good job with her,” Thornton said. “Nothing really changes for me on game day. I go to the rink for practice, come home, get an hour-and-a-half nap and play a little with her before I go to the rink. But really, nothing (game day routine) changes because the wife takes care of her.”
“The baby gets up early and I get to sleep in as late as possible,” Clowe said. “She (his fiance) always lets me get my rest in the mornings. I get my pregame meal and come home to get my nap. And she gets up with the baby in the afternoon and they’re quiet. She’s great on game day. It means a lot to me to see what they do to sacrifice for us.”
These rookie fathers are learning what a few of the veteran dads have experienced.
“If you talk to any of the players, their wives do a lot,” said Scott Nichol, who has two sons and a daughter. “We’re in and out of a lot of cities and get home late. Sometimes, we get home from a road trip just as the kids are going to school. They take care of the kids, the house and everything.”
“You rely on your spouse a little more,” said Dan Boyle
, father of two girls. “The nights before games, she knows that when the baby is crying, she’s going to be the one to get up.”
One Sharks veteran knows the challenges in juggling a playing career with having a family. Jamal Mayers, who has two daughters, offered some simple advice to the freshmen dads.
“A happy wife is a happy life,” Mayers said. “Get as much help as you can. There’s no shame in getting help and easing a little bit of the pressure and the newness. We’re on the road so much that the burden is left on our wives. As anyone who’s had kids knows, it’s a huge adjustment for any couple. If you can lessen that, it makes life a lot easier.”
“It’s all for the better,” Thornton said. “I enjoy being a dad.”