Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Father-son journey for Jets

Having the old man along for trip out west a blast for players

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Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice called it a "window into their world" when asked to describe the team's father-son road trip that began Monday with a flight to California.

The Jets meet the Ducks in Anaheim tonight and the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday.

Right-winger Blake Wheeler said for his father, James, this first opportunity to travel with his son in the NHL is a dream come true.

"Probably No. 1 on his bucket list," Wheeler beamed after Monday's practice at the MTS Centre. "He's really fired up to be a part of it and all the dads are pretty excited to be there."

James Wheeler played basketball, football and baseball in college and even spent three seasons in the Detroit Tigers minor-league system, making him "instrumental" in his son's athletic development.

"He never played hockey but he played sports at a high level," son Blake said Monday. "I think the biggest thing he taught me early on, it's not necessarily always the kid that has the highest level of skill, highest level of ability. It's putting in your work every day and he instilled that very early on with me.

'I think the biggest thing he taught me early on, it's not necessarily always the kid that has the highest level of skill, highest level of ability. It's putting in your work every day and he instilled that very early on with me. I attribute the drive that I have and my work ethic to the things he taught me'

-- Blake Wheeler on the influence of his father, James

"I attribute the drive that I have and my work ethic to the things he taught me."

It's old hat week for Andrew Ladd's father, Dave, who's been with the Jets' captain on previous trips with the Carolina Hurricanes and Chicago Blackhawks.

Fun

But it's no less fun after the first time, Ladd said.

"For them, it's great," he said. "They don't get to see a lot of the stuff we do on the road or how we travel or how we prepare for games, maybe since our minor-hockey days.

"So it's fun for them to go to a couple of nice cities, see a couple of different arenas and travel with us and hang out with us. And it's fun for us, too. They had a big part of getting us to where we are today.

"My dad never pushed me too hard. It's fun to be able to do this with him and give back a little bit, too."

Mark Scheifele's father Brad got the double bonus this week. He was here Saturday afternoon to see his NHL rookie son score his first regular-season goal in the MTS Centre.

And now the road trip.

"It will be fun," Scheifele said Monday. "He's really excited for it. It's a kind of once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is going to be exciting to share it with him."

Scheifele, like most players, raved on about the support his family and his father provided on the road to the NHL.

"He's not a big talker," Scheifele said. " What he instilled in my mind when I was a little kid was if you're playing, you've got to be having fun. That's his biggest thing. He's a happy-go-lucky guy; he wants to be happy and positive and that's what I love about him."

Scheifele said it's carte blanche -- including no menu limits -- for his dad this week.

"No, he can go wild," he laughed. "I owe him huge."

Maurice seemed to be pleased with the timing of this trip. Though early in his tenure with the Jets, it comes on the heels of three straight wins.

"It's a great little window into their world and also a really nice thank-you," Maurice said. "We're the benefactors of all the fine work they did as parents, the support staff and all the people here.

"They're kids again and you don't get to see your dad do that, so that's the fun part, watching them milling around together."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 C2

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