John-Michael Liles is making good use of his iPad and on FaceTime during the Carolina Hurricanes’ road trip.
The same is true for the Canes’ Nathan Gerbe and Eric Staal.
While an NHL road trip is a business trip and all about hockey, it means players are away from family and it can be difficult for those with young kids. Call it a different kind of fathers’ trip.
Liles and his wife Erin have a daughter, Ava Holladay, who is almost four months old.
“It’s definitely tough not being there for all the little moments,” Liles said. “Being gone for nine straight days … I do FaceTime a couple of times a day and that’s nice. I don’t think she recognizes exactly what’s going on with the iPad but she recognizes my voice and gets excited. It’s nice to be able to do that.”
Liles, a defenseman in his 12th NHL season, noted when he first came in the league text messaging was “barely a thing” and players would use the phone to talk to their wives and kids.
“At least now you can actually see them and interact with them,” he said.
The Canes, because of N.C. State Fair scheduling, annually spend much of October on the road.
After a Monday practice last week at Raleigh Center Ice, Eric Staal stayed on the ice to skate with sons Parker and Levi while wife, Tanya, watched from the stands. The Staals’ youngest son, Finley, was born last December.
“It’s hard to leave, no question, when you have young ones and you want to watch them every day grow,” Eric Staal said. “When you’re with them in the summer every day they get used to having you around. Then it’s harder on them when you’re gone. When Dad is not around it can be a little more challenging for your wife, but they’re resilient.”
Liles, whose brother Joe is a U.S. Navy pilot, realizes the absence doesn’t compare to the strain placed on military families. And, Liles added, many parents are pulled away from their kids because of their jobs.
Liles said hockey players are able to be with their wives and kids after practices and on off-days, saying, “It’s a give-and-take.”
Gerbe and his wife, Brennan, have a daughter, Blake Lynn Leilani, who was born in May.
“I’m a home body anyway, so I never like to go on the road,” Gerbe said. “But FaceTime and Skype makes it easier and we use it a lot when the baby is awake. Maybe she won’t forget me.”
Canes goalie Cam Ward found another way to see his family. His wife, Cody, and their two kids were in Denver on Wednesday as Ward shut out the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 – a game won by Victor Rask’s overtime goal.
Extended road trips make for team “bonding,” the players and coaches like to say. Liles, who played seven seasons for the Avs, lives in Denver in the offseason and treated his teammates to dinner Tuesday at his favorite eatery.
“It’s all hockey-focused, just you and the team, and that can be good,” Eric Staal said.
Any early season trip West is a family reminder of a different sort for defenseman Ron Hainsey.
In October 2010, Hainsey was playing for the former Atlanta Thrashers and in Los Angeles when the call came that his wife, Hayley, was about to give birth. He caught a 7 a.m. flight to Atlanta and was at the hospital by 4 p.m.
Alexa Marie Hainsey was born at 11:30 p.m and Hainsey was at the hospital until 3 a.m. Four hours later he was on a flight back to Los Angeles and was in the Thrashers’ lineup that night.
That was 4,350 miles of travel in 33 1/2 hours, but Hainsey said he was “pretty wired” for the game.
Canes coach Bill Peters and his wife, Denise, have a daughter, Aleze, and son, Ayden. They’ve become accustomed, he said, to him being on the road.
“Since they’ve been born it’s been this way,” Peters said.
Peters, grinning, noted his kids know the Canes’ full travel itinerary better than he does, saying, “They’ve got it all dialed in.”
Asked if he uses FaceTime or Skype to connect, Peters said, “No, no, no. It’s a great tool but I’m a little old-school as far as that goes.”
For now, the phone will have to do it.