Rangers' dads get to experience NHL life on the road

St. Louis Blues skater Jay Bouwmeester (no. 19) St. Louis Blues skater Jay Bouwmeester (no. 19) and Rangers center Derick Brassard battle for the puck during the first period. (Oct. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Steve Zipay Newsday columnist Steve Zipay

Steve Zipay is an award-winning journalist who has covered events from Super Bowls to World Series and issues

NASHVILLE - They arrived from around the globe. Dean Dorsett flew from Saskatoon, where it was minus-40 degrees with the wind chill. Jan Stralman came from Sweden through Amsterdam and Detroit. Artie Boyle came from Massachusetts. Pierre Brassard was disappointed that he was delayed in Ottawa and missed Friday's festivities, but was smiling at yesterday morning's skate at Bridgestone Arena.

In all, 20 fathers of Rangers players were joining their boys in either Nashville or Tampa. The Rangers had not conducted a dads journey during coach John Tortorella's four-year tenure because he considered road games business trips and disliked distractions.

New coach Alain Vigneault is cut from different cloth.

During his seven years in Vancouver, Vigneault had two trips for fathers, one for mothers and one for siblings. "All had different dynamics," he said. On one trip to Nashville, he recalled, "we had a supper and the assistant coaches took the fathers to Tootsie's [an iconic music establishment on Broadway] and we lost four of them during the night, so my mind was already made up that this was going to be a lot of fun."

This time, after an event Friday at the Country Music Hall of Fame, all were present and accounted for Saturday.

Pierre Brassard is a veteran of these journeys, having made three when his son Derick played for the Blue Jackets, along with Derek Dorsett and Anton Stralman. "We went to Philadelphia, Boston, Tampa, Sunrise," he said. "You know, it's a dream to have your son play in the NHL, and then I meet Henry Staal here, and he has three sons in the league. Imagine that!"

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Derick Brassard recalled that while the team took pregame naps, the dads took bus tours in Philadelphia and lounged on the beach or at the pool in Florida. "But what they really enjoy is being in the suite together watching the games," he said. "After the first trip, my mom told me that he talked about it from months and months."

Anton Stralman remembered some interesting songs at a Karaoke bar ("Not me, I don't sing," he said), and some post-dinner laughs when dads were asked to stand up and tell stories about their sons as youngsters. "A lot of the other players had never heard them before," he said.

Derek Dorsett said that he was fortunate because his dad ran his own businesses, so both parents had time to travel. Dean Dorsett said he had been to all but five NHL arenas. "But he enjoys the camaraderie on these trips," Derek said. "They all drove us around to games as kids . . . they sacrificed a lot for us."

This weekend, they are enjoying the memories.

"He's had a blast," Brian Boyle said of his father. "He's a former goalie, so he was inspecting Henrik's pads (in the dressing room). Lucky Henrik wasn't starting, he would have killed him."

Lundqvist is rooming with his father, Peter, who underwent brain surgery in December 2007 and is doing remarkably well. After practice, Peter sat talking at Henrik's locker until it was time for questions from the press.

"It's a great feeling. I really appreciate the gesture from the organization," said Lundqvist, who said there would be a little extra incentive to win. "We want to show our dads, too, the appreciation for what they've done for us. It's kind of a proud moment, too. You reach your dream and the one that's really helped you is your dad -- well, both your parents -- so to share this, is emotional."

Chart: Dee-fense

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In 14 of the last 17 games before last night, the Rangers have allowed two or fewer goals.

Two: Philadelphia, Detroit, Montreal, Islanders, Anaheim, Columbus, Dallas, Boston (Record: 4-4)

One: Carolina, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles (Record 2-1)

None: Montreal, Buffalo, Washington (Record: 3-0)

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Emulating Alain

Inevitably, almost any time you speak with an opposing coach, they describe Alain Vigneault's teams as "well-prepared" and "creative". Predators coach Barry Trotz is no different. "Vancouver was known for having a very great offense over the years, but really, the strength of their team was that they played strong defensively. He can be firm when he needs to be and he can have a relationship with guys away from the ice. I take a lot of things that he's done with his teams and try to implement them in our teamand he's won."

Heard around...

Asked assistant general manager Jim Schoenfeld, a former Sabre, if he had been recruited for Buffalo's vacant general manager job: "No, and I wouldn't take the call. If I was there, I wouldn't be here and I don't want to be anywhere else." . . . The coolest item at the Country Music Hall of Fame, according to Brian Boyle? "Elvis' gold-plated Cadillac." . . . Nashville rookie defenseman Seth Jones is paying close attention to the Indiana Pacers. Why? His dad, Ronald "Popeye" Jones, is an assistant coach. "They're 10-and-1 or 11-and-1." . . . Stars coach Lindy Ruff halted practice Friday in Dallas at 12:30 p.m. for a moment of silence to honor the memory of John F. Kennedy.

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