|Gabby and the Slovakian mafia. |
Pavol Demitra, Sr, Matija Radivojevic and Pavol Gaborik with Marian Gaborik in San Jose before the game.
Funny lines, funny times on road trip
They said what?
They said what?
The laughs were plentiful during the Wild's first father-son road trip. The funny lines and sights were overflowing. Here are some as witnessed by hockey writer Michael Russo:
At Monday's first practice, coach Jacques Lemaire screamed at the fathers: "Put your skates on!"
When Brian Rolston couldn't figure out how to open the door to the ice at HP Pavilion, Mark Parrish's dad, Gene, jumped up, opened it and said, "The dads are here for you."
When Len Boogaard, Derek's father, couldn't be found at one practice, I asked, "Where's Boogey's dad?" TV color analyst Mike Greenlay replied, "Over there protecting Gabby's dad."
By the way, where was Boogey's dad? Hiding in the corner. "He's creepy like that," his son said.
Seeing Pavel Demitra, Pavol Gaborik and Matija Radivojevic -- the dads of Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik and Branko Radivojevic -- walking lockstep together to the pool with their hands in white robes, Bob Snow, the dad of Director of Hockey Operations Chris Snow, said, "It looks like the Slovakia mafia."
Pictured above: Generously listed at 5-10, Pierre-Marc Bouchard posed in front of a sign at Universal Studios that said, "You have to be this tall [48 inches] to ride."
Pavol Gaborik, Marian's dad, was late going into Universal Studios because he was ill. The next day, everybody kept asking him how he was feeling. "They're always worried about Marian [and his groin]. Now everybody's worried about me," Pavol said.
Pictured below: Brent Burns went on the Revenge of the Mummy ride "five or six times." He also bought a picture of himself on every ride he went on as keepsakes. Minutes before the park's 6 p.m. closing time, Burns and defenseman Nick Schultz knocked frantically on the door of Terminator 2:3D. Employees opened up and let them in. "That kid's 21 going on 13," Frank Walz said of Burns.
"I told my wife, she gets to go on the Junior trip," said Pierre-Marc's dad, Denis, whose other son, Francois, plays 400 miles outside of Montreal in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Muahaha, I love the thing about Boogaard's dad protecting Gabby's dad. And being creepy and hiding in the corner! Gabby's dad going on IR. *giggle*
A week with dad[s]? Priceless
Minnesota players, coaches and staff took their dads on a memorable road trip out west to say thanks for all they have done for them.
Michael Russo, Star Tribune
LOS ANGELES -- Doug White had a big-time quandary on his hands.
It was 5 a.m. in San Jose on Tuesday when the retired schoolteacher found himself staring at the ceiling wide awake.
The problem? His 31-year-old son, Wild center Todd White, was fast asleep in the bed beside him and had a game that night. The elder White did the only thing he could think of -- he grabbed three pillows, silently tiptoed into the bathroom, carefully shut the door, turned on the light ... and got in the tub.
"I don't know how the boys deal with the constant time changes, but my brain was saying it was 8 o'clock," Doug White, 60, said. "I didn't want to disturb Todd. So I got my book and just read in the tub 'til he got up.
"It was really comfortable."
It's been a Wild week for the fathers of 23 players, coaches, managers and staff members who have traveled with the team. Tonight in Anaheim, the dads will take in their third game before heading off into the sunset.
The week included an unforgettable woman with purple hair, an impromptu father-son soccer game, a rendezvous at Universal Studios, beach, pool and fishing outings and the biggest meatballs you've ever seen.
It amounted to a week's worth of smiles, laughs, recollections and new memories.
"I said last night, 'Everybody's happy.' " General Manager Doug Risebrough said.
Dads couldn't get over the team's charter airplane, with first-class seating.
"I'll tell you what," said Bob Foster, Kurtis' dad. "The boys travel nice. Oh ... my ... God!"
Added Gene Parrish, Mark's father, "It's pretty hard to imagine another commercial flight."The charter was enough for my dad," said Manny Fernandez, whose father, Marc, is a pilot and investigates plane crashes. "He was in heaven. He loved that plane. The trip could have ended right there for him and he would have been happy."
The soccer game
In the NHL, many players warm up by playing hacky sack, only with a soccer ball. If you mess up twice, you're out.
Tuesday morning, Brent Burns sprinted into the stands for Jukka Koivu and Timo Nummelin, the dads of Finns Mikko Koivu and Petteri Nummelin, both of whom played soccer competitively overseas.
In a circle, Burns, Fernandez, teammates Branko Radivojevic and Martin Skoula and trainers Tony DaCosta, Brent Proulx and Matt Benz played with Koivu and a shirtless Timo Nummelin, who wound up beating Burns.
"I'm very proud," Petteri said with a big smile.
The purple-haired fan
As Wild dads entered HP Pavilion on Tuesday wearing the red, alternate jerseys of their sons, Sharks fans razzed them with lines like, "What's that, the Minnesota Wild softball team?"
The 23 men drew the attention of one extremely excited Wild fan, Leslie Holm, who lives in Las Vegas but is originally from Owatonna.
Half her head was purple with hair flipped back. The other half was shaved bald. She was so ecstatic to meet the dads, she bought each a beer.
"Twenty-five beers at $7.50 a pop," Bob Foster exclaimed. "They were the big suckers, the 20 ouncers. She was like, 'Drink up boys, drink up!'"
Since you can only buy four beers at a time, she made six trips with the help of Fred Vogt, the dad of trainer Mike Vogt.
"Ushers were shouting at her to sit down," Foster said. "But she was so nice."
Sharks fans constantly came over wanting to know whom the dads were.
"Very polite people," said Denis Bouchard, Pierre-Marc's dad.
"Some cities, I wouldn't be caught dead wearing a Wild jacket," said Frank Walz, Wes' dad. "Vancouver? Try it sometime."
Todd White scored the only goal in a 3-1 loss. When White scored, Doug White got mobbed by the fellow fathers.
"I wish they would have won," Doug White said. "It would have started the whole trip on a different note. [Risebrough] said, 'I'm very superstitious. If we don't do well, I may not be in favor of another [father-son trip].'"
The one thing the trip to Universal proved?
"The guys are still kids at heart, eh?" Bob Foster said.
So are the fathers.
Take Orval Risebrough, known to everyone as Archie. The 76-year-old walked around with 73-year-old Neil Anderson, the father of video coach Ian Anderson. Both dads had no problem going on rides such as Jurassic Park, which ends with a giant drop into a river that soaks the boat.
"Nothing personal if I grab you," Neil said to Archie before the plunge.
Risebrough, a former banker, bikes 35 kilometers a day.
"When he turned 70, he wanted to do 70 kilometers in one day," said Doug Risebrough, one of six siblings. "We had a family picnic around the same time. We had a lot of siblings around and all of us were saying, 'We better go with him.' But then we realized none of us could do it. So we started to say, 'Well, maybe we better do it in stages. You take the first 30. I'll take the next 30.' Then we realized we couldn't do 30."
Laughing, Risebrough said, "So we let him do it on his own."
On the studio tour, the dads who couldn't speak English, like Stephane Veilleux's dad, Guy, got translations from their sons. All day, players and dads were spotted running around, going from ride to ride, smiling ear to ear.
Bob Foster wanted no part of Back to the Future.
"Not a chance in hell," Foster said. "I'm still shook up from Revenge of the Mummy. As soon as it went backward, I knew I was in trouble. I'm still queasy."
Then, Kurtis' dad turned to Mark Parrish and said, "Let's go on Shrek. It's a girls ride." Parrish replied, "Seriously. Shrek is for kids. How bad can that be?"
Parrish's dad, Gene, said, "Boy, this is a blast. Mark might be a lot of things to a lot of people, but he's still my kid. And we hang out all the time."
Pass the pasta
The day ended with a meal at Buca Di Beppo. The picture-taking dads couldn't get over the endless neon lights at CityWalk, some saying this must be what Times Square or Las Vegas is like.
"Man, that restaurant," Bob Foster said. "Hard to believe with all those hockey players and dads that there could be too much food, but there was way too much food. Lots of laughs."Constant noise for two hours," Gene Parrish said.
There's no doubt this was a privilege for the dads, who got a healthy dose of life on the road.
"This was a nice way to say thank you," Branko Radivojevic said. "My dad never even missed a practice of mine. He loves hockey. It's his life. It's why he works security at the big rink in Trencin.
"He means everything to me, and I know we're both just so glad we could share this."
Ahh, jeez. *teary-eyed* I love how Manny Fernandez's dad is so super enthusiastic and stuff, hehe! And the dads mobbing Todd White's dad when he scored, muahaha! Man, all of this makes the Wild seem so loveable. :P
More Maaaaaarian spam! Who knew? Lead the league in goals and points and you get lots of articles written about you.
'What's hockey?' Just watch Marian Hossa
By Linda Cohn
It wasn't too long ago when Marian Hossa of the Atlanta Thrashers had one of those "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" moments.
Hossa and his girlfriend caught a bite at a Chinese restaurant in Atlanta when the waiter was intrigued by Hossa's Slovakian accent, one that's not often heard in the Deep South.
When the waiter asked Hossa what he does for a living, Hossa replied, "I play for the Atlanta Thrashers."
There was a moment of silence, then the waiter said, "Who are the Thrashers?"
Hossa replied: "They're the hockey team, the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team."
The waiter smiled and said in a serious tone, "Oh … what's hockey?"
That's when Hossa knew he wasn't in Ottawa anymore.
He also knows it when he goes to the shopping mall or supermarket. He's never recognized. There is something to be said about having your privacy.
Since being traded to the Thrashers for Dany Heatley in August 2005, Hossa has moved on, but he told me it was tough for him at the beginning, taking almost all of last season to get used to the idea of playing in Atlanta. When Thrashers fans started chanting his name in a game late last season, it was when Hossa truly felt at home. Now, he loves the Southern city.
Those warm, fuzzy feelings have intensified this season. Heading into Friday's games, Hossa leads the league in scoring with 15 goals and 15 assists in 20 games in his eighth season, leading the Thrashers to a 12-5-3 start to lead the Southeast Division. It's the kind of start the team did not have last season after it went through a rash of goaltending injuries (the Thrashers started five different goaltenders over the first few weeks of the 2005-06 campaign).
But hey, that's history. Hossa is looking ahead. He said there's nothing he'd like to accomplish more than help lead Atlanta to its first playoff berth. "That's my goal, that's what its all about," he said. And he has the experience to get them there. He went to the playoffs in all of his six seasons with the Senators, the pinnacle coming during the 2002-03 postseason, when Ottawa made it to the Eastern Conference finals, only to lose to the Devils.
Hossa is just one piece of the puzzle, which doesn't look like it's breaking apart anytime soon. It seems to just be getting stronger.
When I asked Hossa's teammate, 15-year veteran Bobby Holik, to talk about what it's like to watch Hossa play, he said, "He is a rare player. He is never a liability to his team. Not all talented superstars in the NHL can be useful in any situation, but Hoss is. He does not have a weakness in his game."
A strong statement coming from a guy who's seen his fair share of talented hockey players.
Take a look at the scoring leaders and you will see Hossa along with teammates Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov, all within the top 5. Holik said the explosive trio is so successful because "everyone else on the team is doing their respective jobs."
"The goalies are stopping the puck, the penalty killers are killing penalties, the players taking faceoffs and [are] winning faceoffs, the players capable of throwing their bodies around are throwing their bodies," he said. "Plus, better decisions are being made at key times. All of this and more allows our stars to do what they do best, and that is shine."
Shining to the tune of a combined 14 goals and 16 assists in the last five games alone.
But offense alone doesn't get you a playoff spot.
The Thrashers found that out last season, when they came up two points shy of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference. The defense, led by Niclas Havelid and Andy Sutton, has been solid. They are currently 14th in goals allowed (2.95) compared to 24th last season. Then again, the Thrashers didn't have a healthy Kari Lehtonen last season. If the Finnish netminder can remain injury free throughout the season, there's no reason the Thrashers can't end the league's longest-running playoff drought at six seasons.
If that happens, Hossa, Holik and the rest of the Thrashers can forget about that privacy thing. Instead of flying under the radar, the Thrashers won't be overlooked in their own hometown.
They were really close last season, but barring disaster, they should be able to make it this year! :)