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Perfect day for players & pops

Timing couldn't be better for Jets and fathers to be hanging out

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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The timing, in retrospect, was absolute genius.

Months ago, when the Winnipeg Jets management first decided to choose the current two-game road swing through California as the trip players would be allowed to bring their fathers along, the front office had no idea the team would be playing some of its best hockey.

Indeed, when the team hit rock bottom earlier this month with a three-game losing skid that led to Claude Noel being fired as head coach on Jan. 12, this trip to two of the toughest rinks in the NHL in Anaheim and San Jose was very definitely not looking like the ideal time to be dragging parents along.

And yet flash forward to this week and it's hard to conceive of a finer moment for proud fathers to be watching their sons play for the Jets than Tuesday night at the Honda Centre when the Jets handed the Anaheim Ducks their first regulation loss of the season at home to extend Winnipeg's winning streak under new head coach Paul Maurice to four games.

How perfect was that? Pretty darn perfect, the players said Thursday at the SAP Centre, where the Jets were playing the Sharks Thursday night.

"It was great timing," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who authored one of the finest games of his NHL career in front of his father in turning back 40 of 42 Anaheim shots. "It was important, first of all, to get the win. But yes, in front of my father, that was something special."

Pavelec's father flew from Czech Republic to be with his son, as did forward Michael Frolik's father. Together, the four men took advantage of a day off Wednesday to go to San Francisco and see the sights, including a boat trip that included Alcatraz.

Most of the other Jets, however, went golfing with their fathers at a posh local course. And that included rookie Mark Scheifele, who is giving his father a close-up look this week at what his new life in the NHL looks like.

"It's really fun for both of us," said Scheifele. "He's always been a big supporter of mine and I can't thank him enough. This trip definitely put a big smile on his face."

While many of the Jets players this week roomed with their fathers instead of their regular roommates, Scheifele said he passed. "I didn't want to room with him -- he's a big snorer," said Scheifele, laughing.

Forward Chris Thorburn said he was grateful for an opportunity to bring his brother, who he doesn't get to see much. "I haven't been able to spend much time with my brother over the last 10 years because of the different avenues we've chosen in life," said Thorburn, whose brother is a teacher in London, Ont.

"He moved away from home. I moved away from home. So the only time we get together is special occasions or short periods in summer. So it's just nice to have him around."

We'd love to tell you how the fathers and brothers felt about this trip, but a Jets spokesman said players and management agreed beforehand that the family members would be off-limits to the media this week.

Jets forward Blake Wheeler described an ideal day golfing with his father on Wednesday.

"It was a perfect day," he said. "We couldn't have asked for better weather and we had a blast out there enjoying the sun for a little bit."

Who won?

"I don't think he's beaten me since I started playing golf," said Wheeler.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd said this week has been a rare opportunity for players to show family what their life is like now.

"Just to be able to bring family on the trip and let them see what it's all about -- see how you travel, the cities you go to, different arenas," said Ladd. "They get a little insight into all that stuff. And it's fun for us to see how excited they are about it.

"And it's fun for us to pay them back a little bit. Because they had a hand in getting us where we are today."

Jets head coach Paul Maurice was asked if the team derived any competitive bump this week from having family on this trip, which is something other NHL teams also do.

"I think there has to be," said Maurice, "because nobody would do it if there wasn't... Everybody wants to make their dads -- or whoever is here, they're a supporter, right? Whether it's a dad or a brother or an uncle or a nephew -- it's someone who has supported their careers. And they want to play well for them, but they never get to share it.

"It's a phone call after a game -- 'Jeez, you played great son tonight'... Now they get to share it after... It's a great little give-back for the players. So they've got to get something out of it."

 

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

sharks edge jets C3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2014 C1

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Updated on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 5:50 AM CST: Replaces photo

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