It wasn't long after an emotional Ryan McDonagh had couragously faced the media in the cramped visitors dressing room at the Verizon Center to explain his delay of game penalty which led to Mike Green's overtime-winning goal on the power play in Game Two of the playoff quarterfinals this past May, when McDonagh checked his cell phone. Per usual, there was a post-game text from his father, Sean.
"You did way too many good things to focus on the one bad," McDonagh recounts what his father told him. "If you continue to do all of those good things, you will help your team win this series, and that's the ultimate goal. He was so positive and upbeat. It helped me to hear that."
That Sean McDonagh had a message waiting for his son after the game, and the fact that it was such a positive one, comes as no surprise to Ryan. He speaks with his father or exchanges texts with him after every game he plays, and those positive messages have been shared from father to son since Ryan was a youngster growing up in Minnesota starring not only in hockey, but in baseball and football, too.
"His is the first text message I have waiting for me after games," explained McDonagh, who turned 24 earlier this week. "And driving to the practice rink from the city is a good 25-30 minutes, so I usually give him a call then and we catch up. We talk about hockey a little bit, but the best part is we go over other things. He keeps me in the loop about how my little bother is doing, and tries to keep everybody connected in our family so that we stay together."
It's no different from when Sean was shuttling Ryan from one early morning practice to yet another game or tournament as a boy.
"He just always wanted me to have fun and play hard," remembered McDonagh. "You have a bad game when you are little, but we wouldn't really talk about it in the car ride home. He was always just so positive, didn't dwell on the negative. He's a really positive guy, and it's something I try and implement in my life."
McDonagh's teammate, Ryan Callahan, also remembers long car rides with his father, Mike. And it is something that the Rangers captain looks back on fondly now that he has grown and started his own family.
"I think at the time you don't realize how special it is, when you are a kid, but looking back I think those are some very special moments," recalled Callahan. "You're stuck in that car for hours at a time, and you don't even have to be talking, or talking about anything important, it's just that shared time together. It makes you realize how he was there for you, and all the things he did for you. And there were big conversations in those car rides, too, things that shaped my values. You remember it now as such a special time."
After Callahan had moved away from home in upstate New York to play junior hockey in Guelph, Ontario, Mike Callahan would drive three hours one way to see his son play. Father and son would then grab a postgame meal at a local Subway, and dad would drive three hours back home. And then a couple of hours later would awake to go to work.
Thus it should come as no surprise to see the type of work ethic Ryan Callahan has, and that his leadership skills have always been of the highest level.
"My dad was a role model for me, shaped who I am as a person more than anything--my character and my values," offered Callahan. "It's not just about hockey, it's about life. The way he raised me---and the way my mom raised me---shaped me with a great example."
Now Callahan is a father himself. His wife Kyla gave birth to their daughter Charlotte (see photo) in the middle of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, "putting things in proper perspective pretty quickly" according to the captain of the Blueshirts. The timing of Charlotte's birth certainly added an extra special something to that playoff run for Callahan and his family.
"It's something I've always tried to do in my professional career, to separate what is going on at the rink with what's going on at home, and that was obviously important at that time," explained Callahan. "When Charlotte was born it was right after a playoff game, it was such an exciting time, but really important to keep my work at the rink."
Ryan Callahan will be celebrating Fathers Day this year with Kyla and Charlotte, while still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. And his buddy Ryan McDonagh will celebrate both his birthday and Father's Day on Saturday with his fiancee, his parents---Sean and Patricia---and bothers Colin and Quinn in Minnesota.
To all of the dedicated and loving dads out there, Happy Fathers Day! And thank you for all that you do.
Jim Cerny-June 16, 2013