Everything was fine when Capitals defenseman Jack Hillen talked to his wife, Caitlin, before heading to BB&T Center Arena in Sunrise, Fla., for a game against the Florida Panthers Saturday. She wasn’t due to give birth to the couple’s second child until April 17, and Hillen had “no idea” he would be greeted with life-altering news by the time the Capitals secured a 4-3 victory that night.
Hillen stepped off the ice shocked to hear team services manager Ian Anderson tell him, “Congratulations. You have a son.” At first, Hillen figured it meant his wife had gone into labor. But at 6:35 in a Minnetonka, Minn., hospital, right when the puck was dropped in South Florida, Knox Patrick Hillen was born.
“When I got back from the road at 3:30 [a.m.], I sent her a text and she wasn’t sleeping so we facetimed and I got to see him,” Jack Hillen said Sunday night after Washington dispatched Tampa Bay, 4-2, at Verizon Center. “It’s been a lot going on, but it’s great. I’m blessed.”
It sure has been a wild week for the 27-year-old Hillen, who inked a new two-year contract extension with Washington worth $1.4 million last Tuesday. He then showed again Sunday why Coach Adam Oates has been giving him an increasing amount of ice time as one of the team’s top defensemen, recording two assists against the Lightning.
It was Hillen’s first two-point game since Feb. 10, 2011, and just his 14th appearance of the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury during the first game of the year.
But the birth of his second child might have provided the latest proof of just how important Hillen has become now that Washington is making its playoff push with nine games remaining. Because of the condensed schedule, and the fact that Oates needs him in the lineup, Hillen can’t get home to see his new son until next week.
Hillen’s family remained in Minnesota this season so that his parents could provide support during the pregnancy.
“I wish I would’ve been there, but I was lucky enough to be there for my first one,” said Hillen, who noted his wife went into labor the night before he was set to go on an 11-day road trip with the New York Islanders when the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Finn, was born. “I just want to go back and hold them, but I can’t.”
Considering how Saturday played out, though, Hillen was simply relieved his wife and son emerged healthy and happy, even while he was out on the ice more than 1,700 miles away.
“I had no idea playing the game and I’m probably glad I didn’t know because I would’ve been thinking about something else the whole game,” Hillen said.