Red Wings embark on annual Fathers Trip

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jonathan Ericsson said his dad is looking forward to the Father Sons Trip: “He was heading back to Sweden and before he even got home, he called me and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m available next year. He doesn’t want to miss these events.”

Detroit — Jonathan Ericsson remembers the first Fathers-Sons trip the Red Wings had, and how much his father Sven enjoyed it.

“He was heading back to Sweden and before he even got home, he called me and said, ‘Just so you know, I’m available next year,’” Ericsson said, a big smile crossing his face. “He doesn’t want to miss these events.”

It’s become one of the more popular parts of the schedule, players bringing along a father, mentor, in-law, brother, maybe a former coach.

That person gets to spend several days getting to see life behind the scenes in the NHL. Flying on the team plane. Attending the meetings and team meals. Time in the locker room.

“They get to share, basically, a few days of our lives, not just how we compete on the ice but how we basically live our lives, how we go about our lives,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “How we travel, we get in some late nights, that’s something hard to understand by hearing.

“Now you get to live it and understand it.”

For rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski, this will be his first such trip, with his father John.

“He’s been asking me about it all the time, and it’s my first one, so I don’t know what’s going on,” Cholowski said. “But he’s asking questions all the time. We’re just going to go with the flow and have fun.

“I’ve only heard good things from the other guys about it. I’m super excited just to hang out with him, and watching a few games. Going out for dinner and hanging out. It’ll be real special.”

Coach Jeff Blashill will have his brother Tim, a head coach at Big Rapids, on the trip.

“My dad lost the battle to my brother,” Blashill said. “He’s a high school coach and he’s going to join us in Chicago (Sunday). Generally they’d be playing this weekend but the way the schedule worked out, he wasn’t playing and we decided that was the best route.

“He’s looking forward to it, and it’ll be awesome to spend time together.”

During a long season of seemingly endless road trips, a three-game trip like this one with mentors is a unique break in the schedule.

“No doubt it’s unique, and it certainly breaks up the monotony,” Blashill said. “Guys really enjoy it and I know the father and mentors really enjoy it. It becomes a great event. The dads, one of the first things my dad asks me every year is when it is and I’m sure a lot of the fathers are the same.

“It’s awesome for the guys to be around, and it’s a good reminder to our players the sacrifices so many of the mentors and fathers made for them.”

One of the big decisions on any of these trips is deciding whether to room together, or getting Dad a separate room.

There were varying decisions, for varying reasons.

Goaltender Jonathan Bernier decided to get his father, Alain, a room of his own.

“He snores a lot,” Bernier said.

But Cholowski, maybe in a rookie sort of decision, decided to be roommates with his dad. His dad has been here at different points of the season, at one point spending a month with Cholowski.

“He’ll be a roomie, we’ll have fun,” Cholowski said. “But like any roommate, there’s obviously differences.”

The major pet peeve? When Cholowski is napping, dad is infamous for getting up, watching television, doing anything but napping.

“Always moving around,” Cholowski said. “But it works out.”

Business at hand

While the dads are around, there’s still business to attend to for the Wings.

Road games in Buffalo, Chicago and Nashville, three usually difficult and noisy rinks, aren’t going to be easy.

“We have to keep focus on what we need to do on the ice,” Kronwall said. “

Generally speaking, the Wings have played well on these trips, and lack of effort is never a problem.

“You want to put on a good show and good effort, you just want to make them proud,” Bernier said. “Give a little extra for sure.”

Ice chips

The dads who watched Friday’s practice didn’t get to see an entirely crisp workout.

“We weren’t good enough,” Blashill said. “I don’t know why. We had a little slow start, maybe it was a bad practice design, but our attention to detail and execution wasn’t good enough.”

… Trevor Daley (foot) and Tyler Bertuzzi (upper body) will make the road trip, but only Daley appears to have a slight chance of playing, maybe Tuesday in Nashville.

Red Wings at Sabres

Faceoff: 1 p.m., Saturday, KeyBank Center.

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: Buffalo (26-20-7) has slumped after a terrific start. … The Sabres have won three of their last 10 (3-6-1) and are slipped out of the playoff picture. … C Jack Eichel (40 assists, 57 points) and LW Jeff Skinner (33 goals) have been consistent offensive forces.

Twitter: @tkulfan