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Penguins' road games to turn into father-son time

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Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007
 

The Penguins' traveling party is about to double in size.

For the first time in franchise history, the team is inviting dads to accompany their sons when the Penguins travel to Dallas and Phoenix for back-to-back road games later this month. During the long weekend, the fathers will be treated to a dinner reception, get a tour of Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository, play some golf and, most importantly, see what life is like for their sons on the road.

"I think guys are really excited about it," center Dominic Moore said. "It's a real nice thing that the team's doing, and I know the dads are pretty excited. A lot of dads are big hockey fans, and they've put in a lot of time and effort helping us to get to where we are. It's such a great thing that they're able to come and share in what we're lucky enough to do on a daily basis."

The event is general manager Ray Shero's idea, borrowed from something the Nashville Predators started doing in 1998. Several other teams in the league have hosted fathers' trips, including the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders.

But this is a first for the Penguins.

"(Michel Ouellet) was saying his dad is just going to be in awe the whole time because he doesn't really know what he does, pregame stuff or the way we fly or anything like that," forward Ryan Malone said. "So for a lot of dads, I think it'll be a good experience for them and lots of fun."

It isn't just players who are afforded the opportunity to bring their fathers. The offer extends to everyone who travels with the team, including trainers and equipment personnel. A team spokesman said they're expecting between 24-to-27 fathers on the trip.

One dad who already knows the organization quite well but will be going along as "just a dad" is Greg Malone, the Penguins' former head scout and father of Ryan. Since leaving the Penguins, Greg Malone joined the Phoenix Coyotes as a scout.

"He's just going to be a dad and hang out with the other guys," Ryan Malone said. "It should be kind of neat because he knows some of the other parents from drafting their kids. It seems like it should be a good time for everybody."

Shero said that when he was the assistant general manager with the Predators and they did the trip, one dad who came along was the father of Jason York, now with the Boston Bruins. Two months after the trip, York's father approached Shero at a game and thanked him, saying the trip was amazing and that he really appreciated it.

"Then, two summers ago, Jason York's father passed away suddenly of a heart attack," Shero said. "When (Predators general manager) David Poile called to offer his condolences, Jason said, 'Dave, I have to tell you, two highlights of his life and my playing career were my first NHL game, and the father's trip. He had the best time, and he always talked about it.'

"So, it means something. We're looking forward to it."

Defenseman Mark Eaton played for the Predators before joining the Penguins in the offseason. He said the father's trip was always a big hit.

"It's neat because you spend your whole younger career with your parents, and you obviously have a special bond with your dad, and for him to see what we go through in everyday life as a pro hockey player is neat for us and a good experience for them," Eaton said. "And it's fun to see other guys' dads and how much they look alike. It's like you're seeing a bigger version of your teammate, so it's fun."

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