All of the Sharks fathers (a few players brought in another important figure in their life) who came in for the dads’ trip were at Saturday’s victory at HP Pavilion, but the official beginning of the event took place when the club departed to Phoenix today. It is after all a trip with the dads that is the main experience, not just seeing them at home.
The fathers will see first-hand what the players go through on the road, but there will also be some bonding time as there is a golf day scheduled for Tuesday. Many of the fathers will spend as much quality alone time with their sons as they have in years as they will room with their kids on the trek.
“It’s funny, I have not spent that kind of time with him since he left to play junior hockey at 16,” Darrell Demers said. “He’s been gone from home since he was 16, so this is a first time to bond with him and spend this much time with him in the last six years.”
“I appreciate it,” Murray Heatley said about making his first such trip. “You used to spend many, many hours a day with him and now he’s up and gone and you hardly see him. I’m enjoying it.”
“It brings back the old times when we used to go in the car for a couple of hours and talk about hockey,” Ed Vlasic said. “It was nice that he wanted me to come (again). I get a chance to be with him, just the two of us like old times.”
The players may be men now, but having dad around is always a good thing.
“It’s good to see him,” Logan Couture
said. “He’s looking forward to it. Just living his hockey dream through me and seeing a day of what it’s like to play in the NHL is something I’m sure he’ll never forget. He’s going to have fun and I’ll have fun with him too.”
Antero Niittymaki’s father came all the way from Finland.
“It’s a long flight,” Niittymaki said. “He’s been on these trips before. It’s always nice. He gets to know a little more of what we do. It’s nice for them to see what goes on behind the closed doors.”
The Sharks pulled off one win for the dads Saturday and would like to make it a sweep for them.
“It’s fun and maybe something we need right now,” Niittymaki said. “Hopefully we can pull off a couple of wins for them.”
Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson says this is one of his favorite times of the year.
“I think it’s great. It’s interesting to see how the dads interact,” Doug Wilson said. “They’ve all done so much for their kids. They are so proud not only of what they have accomplished as players, but as young men. My favorite event of the year is to see them all interact. The dads get to see the time and energy and the things they go through.”
In the end, it’s a special few days for everyone.
“Everybody has lots going on in their life, but I know our players really look forward to it and it will be fun to see them spend some time in the next couple of days, especially on the heels of the win,” Wilson said. “Right now the dads are taking all the credit for it and they should.”
Many of the participating parents have been on the trip before, but they are still genuinely excited. Others are making their maiden voyage.
“For me it’s a first, I have not been here before,” Darrell Demers said. “As a dad, I’m real proud to be here and watch my son play and at the same time have an opportunity to meet every other parent that is living the same parental dream. It’s fun and exciting. I coached him pretty much all his young life until midget hockey. To be able to be with him is fun.”
“I haven’t had a fathers' trip with any team, it’s the first one,” Murray Heatley said. “It’s nice to spend some time with your guy. I like it and will enjoy it.”
The only trouble with the family bonding experience is it raises the question of when the moms will get their due.
“My wife wants to know when the mother’s are going to get one of these,” Murray Heatley joked.
Should the Sharks win in Phoenix and be 2-0 with the fathers in tow, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan may have to find a way to keep the 20 extra coaches around.
“If we win these two games, then maybe we the fathers have turned things around,” Ed Vlasic joked.
The Sharks visit Phoenix at 1 p.m. on Monday and the game will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.