THANKS, DAD Fa­thers Trip high­lights hockey in­flu­ences in play­ers’ lives

The Citizens' Voice - - Penguins Weekly - BY TYLER PICCOTTI STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: tpic­cotti@cit­i­zensvoice.com; 570-821-2089; @CVPic­cotti on Twit­ter

WILKES-BARRE — It didn’t mat­ter where they came from or how note­wor­thy their own hockey back­grounds had been.

One by one, the fa­thers that jour­neyed to Wilkes-Barre/Scran­ton Pen­guins prac­tice Thurs­day greeted their sons with open arms as they walked off the ice and to­ward the dress­ing room. And one by one, the play­ers re­sponded with hugs and huge smiles across their faces.

It was a scene years in the mak­ing on both sides.

“I was for­tu­nate enough to be a coach for 20 years on the hockey side for all dif­fer­ent lev­els,” said Roger Hag­gerty, fa­ther of Pen­guins for­ward Ryan Hag­gerty. “Go­ing to the rink and hav­ing (Ryan) there and be­ing around, I just en­joy watch­ing it. You don’t get any more en­joy­ment than that.”

The Toy­ota Sport­sPlex was just the first stop on the Pen­guins’ first ever “Fa­thers Trip,” which brought many team play­ers and per­son­nel and their dads to­gether for this week­end’s games against Belleville and Laval. Those that couldn’t make it for the bus ride on Thurs­day joined the team in Canada, pro­vid­ing an added source of mo­ti­va­tion for both games.

Such trips have be­come pop­u­lar among NHL teams, but they might be even more im­pact­ful to a team like Wilkes-Barre/Scran­ton. The AHL sea­son is es­sen­tially at its mid­point, where the play­off pic­ture has yet to take shape but the ini­tial ex­cite­ment of open­ing night has long worn off.

In other words, a per­fect time for the play­ers to re­con­nect with one of the big­gest in­flu­ences that helped get them to this stage in their ca­reers.

“I’ve never been on a dads trip in this league,” said for­ward Chris­tian Thomas, whose fa­ther, Steve, recorded 933 points over a long NHL ca­reer and was slated to join the team later in the week­end. “He came with me to the last tour­na­ment I was at, and it was spe­cial to have him. He was my room­mate, too, which was funny.

“It’ll be a good fam­ily party, I guess.”

Some play­ers, like de­fense­man Jarred Ti­nordi, have been around pro­fes­sional hockey since the time they were born. His fa­ther, Mark, played dur­ing the 80s and 90s and was a long­time de­fense­man for the Min­nesota North Stars and Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals.

Even though the elder Ti­nordi skated in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent era — he said the cur­rent game is a vast de­par­ture from the fight-heavy, rough-and-tum­ble style he had to play — he sees this trip as a great op­por­tu­nity to not only talk hockey with his son, but also share sto­ries with other play­ers and par­ents present.

And un­like in years past when he might have watched with a more crit­i­cal eye, he has de­vel­oped an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the cur­rent op­por­tu­nity Jarred has earned him­self with the Pitts­burgh or­ga­ni­za­tion. Even if the Pen­guins beat Mark’s North Stars in the 1991 fi­nal.

“You watch the game, you kind of know what’s go­ing to hap­pen and you can see if he’s in the right spot,” Mark Ti­nordi said. “Now, I kind of just watch and en­joy it. The first cou­ple years when he just got drafted, you’re like anx­ious and stuff. But now I think he’s get­ting to go where he’s go­ing to go, so it’s good.”

Roger Hag­gerty, mean­while, can look back and be happy know­ing the pa­tience and de­ter­mi­na­tion he tried to in­still in his son has paid off at the pro­fes­sional level.

A former three-sport ath­lete and mi­nor lea­guer in the Bos­ton Red Sox sys­tem, he felt some­what help­less watch­ing Ryan over­come an in­jury while play­ing for Rock­ford in 2015-16, only to see his play­ing time cut for fac­tors out of his con­trol.

“It’s kind of hard to watch, as a fa­ther, when that hap­pens be­cause you don’t have any an­swers,” Roger Hag­gerty said. “But he’s per­se­vered, and hope­fully he gets the op­por­tu­ni­ties to get a chance.

“The way he’s de­vel­oped him­self and car­ries him­self on and off the ice has been im­pres­sive.”

One of his best hockey mem­o­ries is watch­ing Ryan play in his first ex­hi­bi­tion game at Madi­son Square Gar­den and have two goals, and he’s hope­ful there are plenty more to come.

Per­haps this week­end will be one of them, given it’s a sig­nif­i­cant role re­ver­sal from all the trips fa­ther and son made to the rink years ago. So, even though there was hockey to be played, the past cou­ple days def­i­nitely had a more per­sonal feel for all in­volved.

“It’s a busi­ness trip for us, and we’ve got two wins to fo­cus on,” Ryan Hag­gerty said. “But, it’s also en­joy­able to have (my fa­ther) around on the road.

“You don’t get a lot of times where they get to travel and ex­pe­ri­ence a cou­ple games. It’s just go­ing to be a neat ex­pe­ri­ence. They’re go­ing to en­joy it as much as us play­ers.”

MARK MO­RAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Jarred and Mark Ti­nordi.

MARK MO­RAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Roger and Ryan Hag­gerty.

MARK MO­RAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Greg and Zach Trot­man.

MARK MO­RAN / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Pat and Tom McGrath.

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