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Lightning dads’ trip sparks memories of less extravagant trips

The Lightning and their dads spent a lot of quality time together in the car as kids. Now, they took a different kind of road trip.

CHICAGO — Being a parent can look and feel a lot like being a chauffeur. So it figures that much of the reminiscing of the Lightning players and their dads about their early hockey days center around car rides.

There were rides shuttling the boys around town and long rides to tournaments. Some rides created quality time between father and son.

Grant and Brayden Point’s rides were silent.

“(Brayden would) get in the car and sleep,” Grant said of the Lightning center and Calgary native. “We’d get to the rink and I’d try to wake him up. No go. Try to wake him up (again). No go. Okay, go.”

On the way home, they always stopped for doughnut holes called Timbits from the Canadian chain Tim Horton.

Drives to far-flung tournaments were different. More kids would be in the car, and they were excited for the games ahead — and for the hotel pool, access to which was a powerful motivating tool for coaches.

Fathers of the Lightning players joined the team on this week’s visit to St. Louis and Chicago for the annual dads trip. But instead of a cross-country car ride, the dads were treated to chartered plane rides, luxury hotels, steak dinners, desserts and an adult beverage or two.

Center Tyler Johnson remembers his dad, Ken, making the seven-hour drive from Spokane, Wash., to Vancouver, often through the night, so he could play.

“He literally sacrificed every single thing for me,” Johnson said. “I owe him so much.”

Most of forward Yanni Gourde’s memories of his dad and hockey revolve around Jean-Guy shuttling the three Gourde boys to practices and games.

Jean-Guy reminded his son of the time he left Yanni at the wrong arena. Yanni sat on his hockey bag waiting for someone to come back for him. He doesn’t remember how he was rescued, but he figures he borrowed a phone to call someone. They got him in time to get to the right rink for puck drop.

“They sacrificed so much for us,” Yanni said. “It’s just nice we get the chance to give back a little bit and they get to see a little bit of behind the scenes here.”

Of 23 players, 15 fathers and one father-in-law made the trip. Twelve other dads and three brothers joined the coaches and staff. Olle Hedman, Pavel Rutta, Alexandr Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy Sr. and Libor Bartik, forward Ondrej Palat’s father-in-law, made the trip from Europe.

Olle Hedman hasn’t missed a trip yet in Victor’s 10 seasons with the team. He got more time with Victor this week than he did during the six days the Lightning spent in Sweden for two games this month.

Forward Alex Killorn’s father, Matt, was at his games during his youth in Quebec, and the one who handed over a toonie ($2 coin) for the postgame Gatorade. But Alex’s mother, Cindy, did a lot of the midweek driving between his city and high school teams.

She jokingly (but not-so-jokingly) asks when the Lightning will host a moms trip. Last season, the Ducks had a moms trip that featured a stop in Tampa.

One locale of this year’s Lightning trip wasn’t particularly exciting for forward Pat Maroon’s father, Phil, who lives outside St. Louis, but the gathering of dads is fun even if it doesn’t take him someplace new. He, like most of the fathers, looks forward to the dads trip every year.

“You never get that bonding time together with your dad,” Pat said. “Sometimes when it’s over, you wish you could go back to those moments and cherish those moments.”

The Maroons have missed out on a lot of time together as Pat has played mostly in other cities. Since he was 16, Pat, 31, has spent only two seasons playing in St. Louis. The memories that do stick out for him come from the earlier years, and a lot of car rides.

The Maroons drove to Michigan; Notre Dame, Ind.,; Chicago; Canada and more places, just the two of them. Pat remembers Phil playing rock music or listening to sports radio all the way.

“Those are the moments I’ll always remember,” Pat said. “Just having that time, just having those moments as a kid is just awesome. Your dad can teach you how to be a young man.”

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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