PITTSBURGH (AP) - For every athlete, at every level, there is a parent who sacrificed and supported them along the way.
A case can be made that parents of hockey players have to sacrifice a little more in terms of time, money and overall commitment. The equipment is expensive, ice time is not readily available and, as you progress to higher levels of the game, the travel really picks up.
The Penguins and general manager Ray Shero realized this parental commitment, and they were one of the first teams to implement a "dads trip" in 2006. The trip allowed each player's father to tag along during a road trip and participate in a number of unique events, attend the games and, most importantly, bond with their sons.
The trip will happen again this year, however this time there is a twist: It will leave the dads at home in favor of the hockey moms.
"I don't think I've ever been on a road trip with just Mom and I," captain Sidney Crosby said. "So, it will be nice to spend some time with her and catch up. I think the dads are a little shocked that they not going to be on the trip this year, but it's nice to bring the moms, and it will be fun to meet some new faces here and have fun on the trip."
While there is a thinking that it is always dad who is making the sacrifices for his hockey-playing child, there are many players who got to the NHL with the support and sacrifice of their mothers.
One parent may be off working while the other is getting up at the crack of dawn to drive his or her young player to practice or a game. In many places around North America, hockey practices may take place in the middle of the night or during the wee hours of the morning. Sleep is at a premium for all involved.
"I think like everyone else, the early mornings and the drives back and forth from the rink," Crosby said. "I think they sacrifice a lot in their own life to make sure that we could enjoy playing hockey as kids and have fun doing that. I think all those things, it's something that's nice to show your appreciation and bring them on a trip like this."
A number of teams around the league have implemented a moms trip this season, but this will be the first for every player in the Penguins' locker room. While most of the players have participated in a dads trip over the past couple of seasons, they aren't quite sure what to expect during this getaway that takes the team to Los Angeles and Phoenix.
"More shopping, maybe," defenseman Kris Letang said, chuckling. "More shopping, I don't know. We'll see."
According to the Penguins, there will be an arranged shopping trip while the team is in Phoenix, but at the end of the day this all about bringing family together.
"My mom has always been there for me," Letang said. "I never got pushed into hockey. She was always there to support me. She (followed) me around Canada. She was the biggest supporter. Everything I asked for hockey, she was giving it to me."
For each player there is a story like Letang's.
Crosby left home at an early age to pursue his dream, and he seems to be looking forward to this opportunity to not only give back, but to get some quality time to re-connect with his mom.
"You leave home pretty early to play hockey and things like that, you don't get a lot of time to spend with your family. I think it will be nice just to catch up and spend some time with her and to have her get a chance to watch a couple games; she doesn't get to a lot of games either. I think all of those things combined will be really nice."
Information from: Beaver County Times, http://www.timesonline.com/