TAMPA — Zach Bogosian doesn’t typically give the outside world a second thought when he’s on the ice.
Hockey has been a safe haven since the Lightning defenseman picked up a stick at 3 years old with the Massena (New York) Minor Hockey Association.
And since getting drafted in 2008 — as the No. 3 pick by the Atlanta Thrashers behind Steven Stamkos and Kings defenseman Drew Doughty — he can count on one hand how many times he has put the game as his No. 2 priority.
One of those times came in mid-May as the Lightning opened their second-round playoff series in Sunrise against the Panthers. After Game 1′s second period, Bogosian got word that wife Bianca, pregnant with their fourth child, had gone into labor. Quickly, perspective shifted; the baby was coming five weeks earlier than anticipated.
He finished the game, helping the team to a 4-1 victory, then immediately flew home. Cade Thomas Bogosian was born the next day. He spent two weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit.
“You try to come into the rink and be the best version of yourself,” Bogosian said. “I was trying, I was trying my best, but I had a lot on my mind. And to be completely honest with you, hockey was the second (thing) on my mind when I was in the rink.”
For Game 1 against the Panthers, Bianca hosted the other Lightning families for a watch party. The party came to a halt when her water broke.
Pat Maroon’s wife, Francesca, drove Bianca to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital.
“There’s an army of wives taking care of her,” Pat Maroon said. “And that’s what it’s all about. (Francesca is) taking her to the hospital; people are watching my daughter (Goldie) at the house. I think that just goes to show you what kind of team we have away from the rink.”
Bogosian called Bianca during the second intermission. The call reassured him that there was still time before labor kicked into full swing. That she wasn’t alone was a huge relief as well.
“It was a little bit of a whirlwind,” he said. “We had all hands on deck. It was a full team effort. It’s moments like that when you’re like, OK, you live away from your family when you’re playing this game, and then to have something like that go down and have everyone kind of step up is massive.”
Cade was born the next morning, and doctors initially were concerned with his respiratory system, a common issue with premature babies. But Bianca’s positivity didn’t sway.
“She was very optimistic right away,” Bogosian said. “But just to see how she was trying to juggle everything — it’s different if there’s no hockey going on because I’m there 24/7. But when I’m at the rink, I’m not there, so she takes a lot of that on herself. She’s a very strong mother and a great wife.”
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Lightning family assists
The Bogosians needed all the assistance they could get with three young children — Mila, 6; Hunter, 3; and Harper, 2 — at home during the most chaotic time of the year for an NHL household.
The families in and around the Lightning were more than willing to pitch in.
“There were numerous times in those two weeks where people would come and take the kids just for a couple of hours just to let them go do something, play with other kids,” Bogosian said. “Little stuff like that goes a really long way in our house.”
Most days, Bogosian would go to Amalie Arena in the morning while Bianca left for the hospital. When he finished, he would head to St. Joseph’s for a few hours, then back home to spend time with the kids, eating dinner or getting them to their activities. At night, he and Bianca would tuck the trio in for bed and leave again for the hospital.
“We’d sit and spend the night there and try to spend as much time with (Cade) as much as possible,” Bogosian said. “It’s sad when you leave the hospital and he’s there alone, even though he’s only a few weeks old. It’s on your conscience that he’s alone.”
It was “alarming” for the Bogosians to see their newborn son hooked up to breathing and feeding tubes.
The first few days in the hospital were overwhelming as they tried to take in new information from doctors while dealing with exhaustion and nervous energy.
“It takes a few days to figure out right away kind of what was going on,” Bogosian said. “Those are long days.”
But he and Bianca couldn’t help but wonder if they were some of the lucky ones in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“You feel for the other parents that are there too, right?” Bogosian said. “There are other families that are going through a lot more than what we were going through, so I thought about them. The (unit) is not a great place to be. … You feel for everyone that’s there, and then the kids and the families and everyone’s kind of taking on that burden.”
Homecoming to remember
The Bogosians took Cade home June 2.
His siblings posed for a photo outside their home before cuddling up with Cade on the couch, Hunter cradling his brother in his arms.
“(Cade) fought through it,” Bogosian said. “It was nice to finally get him home and get everyone under one roof.”
It didn’t take much time for Hunter to warm up to the idea of a younger brother.
Hunter, who likes to hang around the rink with his dad, immediately grabbed a pair of hockey sticks and some pucks for Cade. And for bath time, Hunter let Cade take one of the pucks with him into the tub.
“(Hunter) told me he was going to show him all of his dinosaurs,” Bogosian joked. “I think he’s just looking for another dude to play with.”
Cade’s homecoming was a moment to remember forever. Another came during warmups of Game 3 against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final. As Mila, Hunter and Harper hugged the glass by the Zamboni door at Amalie Arena, Bianca held Cade in her arms.
“It was awesome,” Bogosian said. “It was just nice that we can do everything together now. We’re not in two different places at the same time, and it was nice to have them there.”
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