PITTSBURGH - Standing outside of their spacious suite at the CONSOL Energy Center, Leo and Matt Calvert were just a couple of best friends. Hanging out, talking hockey, and spending quality time together that isn't as frequent as it used to be.
That has been one of the main themes of this week's Fathers Trip for the Blue Jackets: not only being able to show their dads around and give them a first-hand look at their life in the National Hockey League, but just having the opportunity to be father-and-son at the rink - something that was a core part of their childhoods.
The Calverts, who traveled around their hometown of Brandon, Manitoba making sure young Matt had the ice time to practice and get better, really enjoy this trip and for Leo, it's his second such trip with the Blue Jackets; he was part of the dads' jaunt to Nashville and Boston a couple of years ago when Matt was in his second season.
Leo said he's thankful on a couple of levels: he's thankful for the chance to take this quick road trip with his son and he's also thankful to the Blue Jackets for making it happen.
"I'm spending more time with him than I originally planned to," Leo said, referencing his son's injury that has kept him out of action since the first week of the season. "But this has been fantastic; it's a first-class organization and a first-class experience. They've treated us so well; it's always great to spend time with my son and they've taken good care of us."
It brought back memories of their days traveling to practices, games, and other hockey functions. While it was difficult for Matt to watch his teammates - especially so in a 4-2 defeat - he appreciated the bonding time with his dad, who has made more than a few friends among the fathers group.
"I'm not doing the driving this time," Leo laughed. "It's a lot nicer than that."
Randall Johansen, Ryan's dad, has a younger son back home in British Columbia who's currently going through the same thing his eldest son did a few years ago. They drove to any number of local rinks in the greater Vancouver area when Ryan was a youngster, and in the process, forged relationships with the other parents on his teams.
There's a similar vibe this weekend: the dads form a bond, too, and share stories about their "hockey dad" careers that originate from all over.
"I love the camaraderie among the dads, it's awesome," Randall said. "We're all hockey dads, we've all driven our kids to the rinks and done all that. You really build something over the few days we're together and it's pretty cool.
"It's like the old days and that's what we like about it. We'e at the rink together, we're at the hotel together...it definitely takes you back, that's for sure."
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