Players' fathers join team on trip to Phoenix
"You could tell from his holler," Smyth said. "You know, `Get your feet moving,' or something really loud. You thought, `Oh, there he is,' and you knew you better kick it up a gear."
Jim Smyth didn't need to holler on Monday. He watched with pride as Ryan and his Kings teammates played the Phoenix Coyotes. Mr. Smyth was one of 15 fathers who attended the game as part of the Kings' first-ever "dads' trip."
In a tradition that is becoming increasingly popular among NHL teams, fathers are invited to travel on the team's chartered flight, attend a team dinner, room with their sons at the hotel and watch the game from a suite.
Making this trip were Bryan Brown, Paul Doughty, David Drewiske, Jim Greene, Jim Harrold, Jack Johnson Sr., Butch Jones, Matjaz Kopitar, Edward Purcell, Doug Quick, Jim Richardson, Bob Scuderi, Cyril Simmonds, Jim Smyth and Tim Stoll.
The Kings' fathers will come back to Los Angeles on Monday night and also attend Thursday's game against Pittsburgh at Staples Center. For fathers and sons alike, it's a time to reminisce and remember how careers got started.
Smyth recalled how his father, a mechanic in their small Alberta town, would show up in the later parts of his youth games after a long day of work.
"I was fortunate to have a dad who would take a little time to make it, because he was busy and he would be thinking about the family," Ryan Smyth said.
"The ice surface, the rink, wasn't too far from the service station. He was able to come by, toward the end of the games. He was always busy. He could be traveling with the tow truck, picking up people, and it demanded a lot of time."
The fathers universally agree that the sacrifices they made were worthwhile, and they happily tagged along with their sons in Arizona and Los Angeles, grateful to get an opportunity to catch up, since most live in Canada or other points East.
Matt Greene's father, Jim, made the trip out from central Michigan.
"It’s just always good to be able to spend time with my son, We don’t see him that often," Jim Greene said. "A lot of times when we see him on the road, if he comes to Detroit or Chicago and we get to see him, you can have these little pieces of conversations, but you can’t really relax and let the conversations flow. It’s nicer to spend some uninterrupted time with him and get to chat a little bit. It’s good to get caught up."
It's nice for the sons as well.
"To have him around, it's obviously special," Ryan Smyth said, "and it's special to be around the other dads and see the other paths of their families, to get to this level. We wouldn't be here without our moms and dads."
For some, the trip brought back some humorous memories, particularly of being on the road with their fathers at youth tournaments. Jonathan Quick smiled as he told of bunking with his father, Doug, on Sunday night.
"I'm trying to go to sleep and he's still just snoring like he always does," Quick said. "It brought me back to being 12 years old, when we would go to tournaments and he'd keep me awake, snoring, back then when I was 12. It hasn't really changed at all in the last 10 years. It made me laugh a little bit when I was trying to go to sleep."
Quick, who recently saw family when the Kings played in New York last month, also talked about the motivation of wanting to play well in front of loved ones, something that doesn't change regardless of age.
"It doesn't change your game plan, but obviously you want to play well," Quick said. "He logged a lot of hours, traveling and bringing me to games and tournaments. He sacrificed a lot, obviously, so that I would be able to play hockey growing up.
"I'm sure that he's proud that I'm in the position I'm in, but you want to give him a good showing when he comes out here. I'm sure the whole team wants to play well since we've got all the fathers out here. Not that it should change anyone's game plan. You can't look into it too much. YOu just have to play."