As the Rangers bid adieu to Tampa Tuesday afternoon, not to mention their six-game road winning streak the night before, they also said their goodbyes to their fathers who had joined them the past four days on the team's Dads Trip. It was a bittersweet send off as the fathers returned to their lives and normal routines and the players moved on to their next city and opponent in the long 82-game regular season schedule.
"This has been such a great opportunity to spend time together during the season, as well as get to see what (the players) go through on a daily basis, see what their lifestyle is like, share in their daily routine," explained David Kreider, father of Rangers forward Chris Kreider. "Now I better understand why he is so busy all of the time!"
The fathers arrived from all corners of the globe, from cities large and small, 19 of them in total, with most meeting their sons late Thursday night/Friday morning when the Rangers arrived in Nashville following their 3-2 victory in Dallas earlier Thursday evening. Other fathers arrived in Nashville on Friday, and Carl Hagelin's dad met up with the group in Tampa on Sunday.
"For me personally I don't get to see my dad too much during the season, and it's just so much fun to have him here, though it's kind of weird being roomies," said a smiling Henrik Lundqvist, who shared a hotel room with his father Peter. "It's like the good old days when you're a kid going to camp and your parents drive you there. That's what it was like checking into the hotel and he was there!"
For Lundqvist's father, who recently underwent surgery but yet made the long trip, the Dads Trip was the start of an extended stretch in the United States from his native Sweden. After spending the four days with Henrik, Peter was setting off to visit Henrik's sister in California before circling back to New York for a holiday visit with Henrik, his wife Therese, and daughter Charlise.
Peter Lundqvist spent much time with Jan Stralman, Anton's dad and fellow Swede, during the down times when the players were practicing or preparing for their games. Both Mr. Lundqvist and Mr. Stralman endured long travel days to come see their boys, but Stralman said it was more than worth it.
"It took me 12 hours by train and three plane connections, but I am happy to be here," explained Jan Stralman, who is now headed to New York to visit Anton's family in Westchester. "I don't get to see Anton often during the season; and I can't wait to see my grandhcildren, too."
Watching Jan Stralman dribble a soccer ball in the corner of the dressing room while waiting for Anton following Saturday's morning skate, one could see how Anton is such a skilled soccer player himself, one who consistently warms up with dribbling exercises before games and practices.
It was also quite interesting to see the physical resemblances and characteristics shared by many of the players and their fathers. Derick and Pierre Brassard have the same easy-going manner and laugh; Rick and James Nash share the same tall, lean look; Brad and Glenn Richards seem to have that same inate intensity; and it was fairly easy to figure out just by looking at Dean Dorsett that he was Derek's dad.
"It's always fun to see the comparisons between the dad and the son," said Derek Dorsett. "This trip is probably as exciting for them as it is for us, and it's a great thing that the organization does."
The Rangers organization scheduled team dinners for fathers and sons, a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, a golf outing for the dads Monday in Tampa, and an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes with the team on a daily basis. Head coach Alain Vigneault not only invited the fathers down to the locker room area in both cities, but he included the dads in a team meeting, as well.
"That was the most fascinating part to me," Ryan McDonagh's father told MSG Network of the team meeting.
"To see how many people makes this whole operation run so smoothly on a day to day basis was fascinating to see up close," added David Kreider.
Of course there were also the games. The fathers attended Saturday's 2-0 shutout win in Nashville, while also taking in Monday's 5-0 loss in Tampa. Pride ran both ways, no matter the result on the scoreboard, as the players were proud to play in front of their dads, and one look on the fathers' faces could not for one second conceal how they felt about the boys wearing the white sweaters on the ice below.
For Lundqvist there was comfort in having his father by his side despite being pulled from Monday's loss after two periods of play.
"I think any time you see your family it gives you perspective on things," noted Lundqvist. "It gets so intense what we do, you play every second day, you travel, you try and perform at a high level to be as good as possible, and sometimes it can get to you almost because you are so focused. So when you see you family it just lets you know there's more than hockey. It's been a great feeling to have my father here."
Added Derick Brassard, "It's a way for all of to say Thank You for all that our dads have done for us."