It’s the trip of a lifetime for a number of the Winnipeg Jets' fathers as they get set to travel with their sons on the team’s upcoming road trip through California.
It’s the first ever father-son trip for the Winnipeg Jets, taking place over the next two games with stops in Anaheim on Tuesday and San Jose on Thursday.
But before hitting the road, the dads took in practice Monday morning at the MTS Iceplex. Rookie Mark Scheifele spoke after practice about the excitement of having his father, Brad, make the trip out west.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so it should be fun and I know he’s really pumped about it,” said Scheifele.
“He’s excited to see what it’s like, what I go through every day, and just excited to take it all in. He’s a positive guy and he’s going to have a lot of fun and it’s going to be exciting to share it with him.”
Scheifele had already shared a special moment with his dad in the past week — the elder Scheifele was in attendance for Saturday’s win over the Edmonton Oilers and witnessed his son score his first regulation goal at the MTS Centre.
It was a special moment for the 20-year-old, who noted that his father has been there since the beginning of his hockey career.
“He was always that guy at all the practices, taking me to wherever I had to be, and has always been a real good and supportive dad. I owe him a lot.”
Life on the road
Evander Kane, who was cleared to play on Tuesday after he missed the last four games with a cut on his hand, was also eager to show his dad life on the road.
“It’s great,” said Kane. “He’s been to games on the road before, but to come with us on the plane and stay where we stay, and eat where we eat, I think it’s great, and for all the dads too.
"Just this morning before the practice, you could just feel the excitement a lot of the dads were having to go on the trip here.”
Both Michael Frolik and Ondrej Pavelec win the award for the father who had to travel the farthest, as both of their dads made the trip all the way from their homes in the Czech Republic.
“They know each other pretty well so I think it worked out pretty good,” said Frolik.
“They don’t speak very much English, so it’s nice they can be together and talk to each other, and I think it’s going to be a great experience for them.”
Frolik and Pavelec grew up playing hockey together in the city of Kladno, located just 25 kilometres northwest of Prague, making the experience that much more special to be able to show his dad the differences between hockey life back home and that of the NHL.
“They never imagined that it could happen like that and now we are here sitting in the room here together. It’s something unbelievable.”
A better understanding
For new head coach Paul Maurice — who, because of the quick turnaround over the last week, won’t have his father on the trip — the chance to have the dads come on the road will be a special opportunity for them to experience the lives they’ve built for their sons.
And as a father himself, he’s enjoyed playing witness to what’s already been a very fun experience.
“What’s really good about this trip is actually watching them interact in the hallways,” Maurice said Monday.
“They’re all so excited. You don’t get to take a bunch of dads and turn them into five-year-old kids, but that’s what we got in the hallway. They’re kids again, and you don’t get to see your dad do that, so that’s the fun part.”
“For fathers … it’s been every day all their lives and now it’s the National Hockey League. It’s great to see where they come to work. It’s great for them to understand that because now they get to relate to everything. When they’re talking to their son next month and they’ve got a flight to wherever, they get it. It’s a great little window in to their world and also a really nice thank you.”
Maurice confirmed after practice that Kane would be a player in Tuesday’s game versus the Ducks.
“Leading into today, he had three hard skates and that’s what we were waiting for,” said Maurice. “He’s in the lineup tomorrow.”
Kane practised on the team’s second line alongside Scheifele and Blake Wheeler.
“I like the possibilities of that line,” said Maurice.
“I’d like to think I’m going to have some patience with it 'cause I’d like to see it work. At the same time, I’ve got another place for him as well that I wouldn’t mind seeing him. He’s a real strong player and he can be a real benefit to whoever he plays [with].”
The Jets star forward has yet to play a game under Maurice. He hurt his hand during a fight in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning back on Jan. 7. But Kane looked good as new Monday, with even his wit still intact.
“I think he wants me to fight, first and foremost,” joked Kane when asked what his role will be under the new coach.
“I don’t think my role changes too much," he added. "Obviously you’re going to have to earn your ice time, play well and show him what you can do. The other guys have had three games to show what they can do and this will be my first one, so I’ll have to be good.”
Paul Postma participated in his first full practice with the team since being out with a blood clot in his calf. He joined the team earlier in the week but was limited with an orange, non-contact jersey. There is still no word as to whether he’ll be a player for the Jets on Tuesday.