In every professional sport, there are lists of players whose relatives played either in the major leagues, in the minors or in college. Many presume that it is simply the gene pool provided by mom, dad or grandparent that allows the second generation to hit the same level or go higher, but the mental aspects provided by the elders seems to be equally, if not more important.
Some guided with a heavy hand, while others observed from a distance, but there is no doubt players with successful relatives in the sport greatly benefited.
Sharks whose parents or grandparents played at high levels include Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, Douglass Murray and Evgeni Nabokov, plus Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson.
For Vlasic, his father was a defenseman at McGill University in Montreal.
“It helped me a lot,” said Vlasic. “He was a good player back on defense and made it easy for me to want to play. He didn’t force it on me, but once I liked it, he helped a lot.”
Vlasic’s dad was there for more than just mental notes.
“For 10 years, he built a rink in the winter time,” said Vlasic.
With the Vlasics, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
“The used to call him ‘Easy Eddie,’” said Vlasic. “He stayed at home and blocked shots. He used his stick too. I learned to play like him.”
For Murray, it was two generations before that saw his grandfather play for the Swedish National team. Lasse “Lars” Bjorn played 217 times for Sweden internationally, including in three Olympics, and is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame.
Murray is one tough NHLer, but he says he falls short of his hockey mentor.
“He was very physical,” said Murray. “He always says I have more skill than him, but he was meaner. He was really old school.”
How mean? It’s rumored that in Sweden parents during that era would tell their children if they didn’t behave, Lars Bjorn would be informed.
With Murray however, Bjorn played a much kinder role.
“He had skates on me before I can remember,” said Murray. “Obviously, he was a lot of support and was always around. He always preached winning and working hard.”
The true test for Murray and hockey came during his teenage years and Bjorn was there.
“When I was 13, 14, 15, I started hanging out with my friends and there were a lot of things outside the sport,” said Murray. “There was one to two years that I thought hockey took up too much time, but I wanted to make him proud and that made me stick with hockey.”
That motivation continues as they are thousands of miles apart.
“On game days, I think about him,” said Murray. “I tell myself to play like he was in attendance. If he was here and I didn’t go 100 percent, I would get it.”
The support is still there for the grandson.
“Sometimes it’s every other week, sometimes its three to four times a week,” said Murray of how often he reached out to his grandfather. “It’s always about hockey.”
Back in Sweden during the summers, Bjorn still ensures Murray doesn’t slip without hockey being played.
“He asks me every day during the summer, “Did you run today?,” said Murray. “Everything is about conditioning.”
For Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson, he had a father and uncle make there livings as hockey players and coaches.
“I got to meet all the people I saw on TV,” said Wilson. “I got to meet Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower. My dad was a hockey player and I thought that was a normal job. My whole life revolved around my games or my dad’s games.”
However, when it came to playing, Wilson took a different route that his father, despite watching so many of his games.
“He was a center and I was a defenseman,” said Wilson.
While there was a path to be followed toward the NHL, the elder Wilson was more concerned with Ron’s outlook on life.
“I learned to just enjoy what you are doing,” said Wilson. “My dad and uncle would get together and never had a bad time. They coached against each other, but loved doing what they did.”
For Nabokov, it’s tough to say if he plays like his father, a former netminder himself in the Russian professional league.
“There aren’t many tapes from then,” noted Nabokov.
However, he still has plenty of conversations with the man who set him on his career track.
“The biggest thing he instilled in me is to never be satisfied with where I am and to always look to improve,” said Nabokov. “If we’re winning games 5-0, he would find something for me to work on.”
What they learned from their families may have been different for each individual, but there is no doubt that the hockey lessons picked have benefited the current Sharks family.
Jeremy Roenick returned to practice on Monday, but is not expected to play on Tuesday.
“He was off a week and it takes time,” said Wilson. “He’ll say he wants to play. He looked good.”
Jonathan Cheechoo did not skate on Monday and will be out as well.
Even when he’s healthy, it could be difficult for Roenick to crack the lineup as Wilson tends to stick with a winning lineup.
“That’s the way it should be,” said Roenick.
LAST TO PLAY 82
Evgeni Nabokov may or may not end up playing all 82 Sharks games, but he has played every one to date. The last goalie to play in every game during a season was Eddie Johnston, a former teammate of Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson.
CLOWE WITH THE JUNIOR SHARKSRyane Clowe
will be a celebrity guest of the Jr. Sharks for their Second Harvest Food Bank holiday food collection at Sharks Ice on Wednesday night from 5:30 to 6:30. Fans can bring cash or a canned non-perishable food item for a chance to take a photo and get an autograph.
The Sharks will face Anaheim Tuesday night in a 7:30 p.m. game that will be carried on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Limited tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.