The group traveling with the Dallas Stars on their current road trip will get bigger Sunday as fathers of the players join the team for a look at life on the road in the NHL.
“It’s a great bonding time,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “It’s an appreciation time for the fathers, who put the time in with their sons as they grew up and the long hours they put in with them. It’s a chance for the sons to show their dads off a little bit. It gives the dads a great feeling of what their sons are going through, getting up the next day from traveling the night before, practice and play that next day and that pressure they are under. It’s a chance to thank the dads for the time they put in, and a chance to see the life their sons live now.”
Stars forward Shawn Horcoff is experienced with fathers going on a road trip from his days with the Edmonton Oilers. He said his dad was pumped when he found out the Stars were doing a dads’ trip season.
“When I told him we had one he was ecstatic. He loves these things,” Horcoff said. “When I was in Edmonton we had a dads’ trip and a moms’ trip, too. It’s kind of nice for them to go through and experience what we live day to day. They wanted to see their sons in the NHL and then to see what goes on closely, it’s a big deal for them.”
So, what’s the difference between a dads’ trip and a moms’ trip?
“Less beer,” Horcoff said with a laugh. “It’s a little different. You mom is your mom. With the moms it is more of thanking them for everything they’ve done for you, and with the dads it is more of a celebration. They can come into the locker room, get a little more insight into what’s going on, especially for my dad. He played hockey, not in the NHL but at a good level, and I think he enjoys getting back around that team atmosphere again.”
This will be a first time experience for Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and his dad, Martti.
“I’ve never been a part of anything like this, so I am sure it is going to be fun,” Kari Lehtonen said. “It’s going to be fun for him to see what I do, and what happens here.”
Martti Lehtonen doesn’t speak English, so Jere Lehtinen will be on the trip to serve as a English-Finnish translator for the elder Lehtonen.
Nineteen of the Stars players will have fathers on the Phoenix and San Jose legs of the trip, and the fathers and sons will be roommates. Some of the Stars personnel traveling with the team will have their fathers on the trip, as well. In some cases it will be a family friend or relative. They’ll all get a firsthand look at the routine of life on the road – the travel, meetings, meals, practices and pre-game skates.
There are some non-hockey activities, including a Super Bowl watching party Sunday evening and an afternoon of horseback riding and shooting at a local ranch. There will be a dinner after the San Jose game Wednesday night, and then the team flies back to Dallas on Thursday.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of them and it always makes for a great trip,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I think there is always a little added inspiration for the players. If he doesn’t hear it from his coach, he’ll hear it from his dad. That part is nice. But it gives them an opportunity to give a little bit back to someone who spent a lot of time with them when they were younger and got them to games. Now, they have an opportunity to take their dad to a game and take them on the road.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.