ANAHEIM — As parents of a young Canadian hockey player, there have been countless road trips over the years for Angelo and Sandra Perfetti. But nothing comes close to the rather unexpected, whirlwind one they're currently on.

ANAHEIM — As parents of a young Canadian hockey player, there have been countless road trips over the years for Angelo and Sandra Perfetti. But nothing comes close to the rather unexpected, whirlwind one they're currently on.

The Whitby, Ont., residents got the call they were hoping for early Tuesday afternoon. Their son, Cole, a first-round draft pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2020, had just learned he was going to make his NHL debut the following night in Anaheim.

A mad scramble ensued, including getting rapid antigen COVID-19 tests, booking flights, catching just a few hours of shut-eye and leaving their home at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday to drive to the airport in Toronto. Once there, a lengthy delay at customs nearly cost them the chance to see the moment they'd been dreaming of.

"The pilot, once we got there, actually did a little welcome thing for us over the speaker. It was kind of cool." –Angelo Perfetti

"We nearly missed our flight. It was so backed up," Angelo told the Free Press Wednesday night at Honda Center. Fortunately, they got a huge assist from a rather hilarious source.

Fellow Ontarian Gary Drysdale was already boarded on the same flight, heading to southern California for the exact same reason. His 19-year-old son, Jamie, was about to start his second season as a Ducks defenceman.

"He actually held the plane for us," said Angelo. "He told the pilot that Cole's parents were on the way, that they were going to miss the game. The pilot, once we got there, actually did a little welcome thing for us over the speaker. It was kind of cool."

Drysdale and Perfetti were teammates on Canada's World Junior team.

Jets rookie Cole Perfetti had family in the stands for his NHL debut Wednesday night in Anaheim. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Jets rookie Cole Perfetti had family in the stands for his NHL debut Wednesday night in Anaheim. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Perfetti's proud parents touched down near Disneyland by mid-afternoon, quickly dumped their belongings at the hotel and made it to the rink at pretty much the exact moment their son hit the ice for his "hot lap" — the solo twirl teams always give rookies playing their first game.

"I'm going to get emotional," said Sandra. "But to see all that come together is special."

Despite the fact they'd been up for approximately 18 straight hours by the time the puck dropped, both were breathing a huge sigh of relief.

"We weren't going to miss it if there was a way to be here," said Angelo.

"I said the same thing I've been saying to him since he was four years old. Just go out and have fun. Because if you don't love it, you don't do well." –Sandra Perfetti

They spoke with their son earlier in the day while en route. He reported "sleeping like a baby" the previous night, unlike them.

"I said the same thing I've been saying to him since he was four years old. Just go out and have fun. Because if you don't love it, you don't do well. That's a mom thing," said Sandra.

"I told him this only happens once, make sure you take it all in and enjoy it. But this is the game you've always played, just go play your game, don't' do anything different. Just play your game."

They are going to stay in California through Sunday, and will follow the Jets up to San Jose if Perfetti gets in the lineup for Saturday night's meeting with the Sharks. With top centre Mark Scheifele set to return from suspension, they aren't taking anything for granted and will just enjoy this ride — wherever it takes them.

"This is the craziest (road trip). But this is the best," said Sandra.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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