Wednesday, December 26, 2007

All in the family

The life of an athlete can be very demanding. The schedule, the pressure, the travel – all of it wreaks havoc on families.

Before the kids – it's all about the player -- his schedule, his pre-game meal, his pre-game nap, and what time he leaves the house for the rink. But after kids – well, it's hard to tell a two-year-old they can't play with their riding toy because daddy has to rest before the game.

Some of the social aspects a husband and wife enjoyed before are now shelved for the good of the family. With kids, you can't go out every night. But in looking at the families a little bit closer, it's the wives that hold the lion's share of the work in raising them.

St. Louis Blues RW Bill Guerin has four children (Kayla, Grace, Lexi, and Liam). He says juggling the kids' schedules with his hockey schedule wouldn't be possible without his wife Kara. But even though she takes care of business while he's away, with kids, stuff always happens. "I can't tell you how many phone calls I've gotten: kids being sick, taken to the hospital. That doesn't stop because you have practice."

Chicago Blackhawk RW Martin Lapointe and his wife Tania have four children: Guyot, Philippe, Noah, and Chloe, plus a Golden Retriever named Buddy. "They're (the kids) always asking me, why you going on the road? Why are you always in hotels? I tell them, that's my work." His 10 year old is okay with that, but the younger ones don't understand. They're told it's daddy's job, but they think he's just playing.

Professional hockey mixed with family is also all about sacrifices. Sacrificing sleep and eating schedules for the good of the kids, but also sacrificing family milestones and holidays for the good of the career. Missing birthdays, anniversaries, first words, and first report cards comes with the territory.

Minnesota Wild defenseman Keith Carney juggles a household of four kids under the age of ten – six-year-old triplets (Aiden, Cole, Kade) and a four-year-old daughter Morgan. If you think about it, when he helped take the Anaheim Ducks to the Stanley Cup final in 2003, Morgan was just a newborn and the triplets were a year and a half.

"It's hard for me to go on the road and be away for any time. After a few days, you're ready to get home. You start missing people. During the summer, you're there every day. Then it's stopped and dad's back to work."

Then add the element of being traded, particularly in mid-season. Even moving teams in the off-season is difficult – trying to get settled from July 1 to training camp.

"There's all sorts of things like schools to think about," adds Guerin, "doctors to think about, signing kids up for sports, buying a house, all sorts of stuff like that. It's all part of real life. Just the fact we play hockey doesn't change it."

No matter how many complications having children may bring to the mix, every player will tell you it's worth it – every moment. They have absolutely no regrets.

Their children also help the players put their careers into a new perspective. After moping around the rink, when they go home after a devastating loss, their kids don't care they lost the game. They only care that daddy's home.

The hockey trade that wasn't

It was trade deadline. Kelly Kisio was in his second year in San Jose under coach George Kingston. San Jose was in Chicago.

"About a half-hour before the deadline, I got traded to Chicago. I talked to Darryl Sutter (then a Chicago coach), who said, 'Come on down tonight and we'll get your gear over to our dressing room. We'll decide if you play tonight.' I phoned my wife, phoned my agent, everything was fine."
Before leaving for the rink, the trade was nullified. A fax didn't go through. Kisio spoke with Chicago head coach Mike Keenan, who said they couldn't do anything about it, go home, and they'd sort it out. "I went home and cleaned my garage for two days, didn't hear from anybody. The deal didn't go through. I got back to the dressing room in time for a team picture with San Jose. Chicago went to the finals that year."

Everyone needs a dad like Doug Gilmour

Tough-nosed center Doug Gilmour had a stellar NHL career that spanned over the course of 20 seasons. As a youngster playing hockey, he had three goals in one game. After the game, he put his gear in the trunk of the car. At home, when he went to get it out, his dad said, "That stuff is not coming out." Gilmour asked, "What do you mean?" His dad said, "Well, you didn't do anything out there today. You didn't work. Everything came natural for you, so forget it, it's staying in there. If you want to go back and play, you take that out and go work next time."

The next game, Gilmour didn't have any points, so he wondered what his dad would say now. It was, "Good game." Gilmour recognized the lesson immediately. Give it a good effort. Work hard and you'll succeed had been his mandate throughout his career.

Jumbotron watching

John Garrett recollects a major distraction while playing goal for the Hartford Whalers at the old Landover rink in Washington – one of the first rinks to install a Jumbotron.

“I look up the ice, and it’s a two on two. They come in, the guy throws it across, and all of a sudden, it’s a two on one. The guy has an empty net to score. I’m thinking, what happened to my other defenseman? I’m watching the Jumbotron. As I’m watching the Jumbotron, they dropped the puck. RW Mike Gartner tees one up from behind the blue line and scores. At the last second, I look down. He’s scoring, and I’m still watching the Jumbotron. Coach Don Blackburn gets me to come to the bench and sit down. The other goalie goes in. He says, “You can watch the Jumbotron as much as you want, now. You’re game’s over.”