Travelling with my son's NHL team
Bob Boyes is the father of 27-year-old NHLer Brad, a member of the St. Louis Blues currently playing his fifth year in the league. Here, he talks about travelling with his son on a road trip with the rest of the team's dads three years ago, while Brad was with the Boston Bruins.
On Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007, the Boston Bruins had just beaten the Maple Leafs in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. The players had showered and were visiting with friends and relatives, then the call came to the boys to say their goodbyes to everyone and to head to the bus.
Everyone but me! The other player dads and I were going with the team for the four-day road trip to Florida.
We rode to the private charter part of the airport and boarded the plane. The flight crew greeted the players by name and offered fruit, snacks, water, or juice to everyone as we got on.
Management sat at the front of the plane, media next, and then the players and us dads in the main cabin.
Players were served their choice of a chicken or pasta meal first, and the rest of us ate after the players were all served. When everyone had eaten, the card playing, movie watching, nodding off or music listening began.
We arrived in Tampa Bay and got through customs quickly – not much congestion at customs at 3 a.m.!
No sightseeing on the bus either. Just checking messages on the cell phones and getting us to the hotel to bed. It was a very nice hotel, but at 3:45 a.m. a comfy bed was all that was really needed.
Brad and I were up the next morning at 9:45 a.m. to have some breakfast and catch the bus to the arena at 11.
A brief skate at the rink and then back to the hotel for a meal in one of the conference rooms – chicken, pasta, salads, fruits, juices. Then the players went to their rooms for the afternoon nap, and the dads just wandered around the area enjoying the sunshine.
There was no game that night, so the players had dinner with their fathers at restaurants of their choice, and it was back to the hotel for an early turn in.
The next day was an off-day. We spent the late morning with a couple of the other players and dads around the pool, and the afternoon was booked for a deep sea fishing trip. It was a great day but if we had to survive from what we caught, we would all starve. But it was fun!
It concluded with the team taking everyone out to a steakhouse for dinner. It was a good meal and lots of fun, camaraderie, and laughs. It was nice, considering the team was having a losing year and there was not a lot to cheer for.
The following day was gameday, and dads were invited to go into the dressing room for the pregame planning session. The Lightning had been scouted and their tendencies for attacking and defending were up on the video.
A game plan to defend the attacks and take advantage of defensive weaknesses was discussed, and sure enough that night watching the game, the same tendencies were evident.
The Bruins followed the game plan and won 6-2. Brad had two goals and an assist, and was the game's first star.
Then it was off to Sunrise, Fla., after the game for the contest the next night versus the Panthers. More checking messages on cell phones, same flight crew — but a shorter flight.
We were in our beds by 1:45 a.m., and I remember Brad staying up and just "vegging" for a while.
The bus left for the arena at 10 a.m., so we grabbed a fast breakfast and headed off. Dads were not part of the gameday plan this time, so we had a coffee and watched the skate from the stands.
We lost that one 7-2. It made for a long flight home to Boston afterward. I remember flying up the Eastern seaboard in the early hours of the morning and seeing what seemed like a stream of lights stretching forever, all the way from Miami to Boston.
When we got off the plane in Boston, it was freezing cold. By the time we got home to Brad's condo and into bed, it was 3:30 in the morning. We were up again at six to catch my flight back to Toronto.
My glimpse into the life my son left me with a number of realizations. It is a good life but relatively simple – NHLers are always eating to fuel the body, resting a lot to rejuvenate muscles, playing or practicing daily, and traveling on a tight schedule.
I was four days in sunny Florida in the Eastern Conference. I can only imagine what the travel would be like in the West.
Two days after I got home from this fabulous experience that Ryan Nadeau and his PR staff organized, I got a phone call from Brad.
He had been traded to St. Louis. In the Western Conference.