Caps' Biggest Fans Tag Along

Eric Fehr said his father, Frank, "can't stop smiling" about the chance to head to Florida to watch the Capitals play.
Eric Fehr said his father, Frank, "can't stop smiling" about the chance to head to Florida to watch the Capitals play. (By Jim Mcisaac -- Getty Images)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Coach Bruce Boudreau won't be the only person the Washington Capitals will have to answer to if things don't go well on their upcoming three-game road trip.

Some of the players also will have to do some explaining to Dad.

The Capitals open a critical Southeast Division swing tonight in Atlanta, then will be joined by 16 fathers -- and one father-in-law -- for this weekend's games in Sunrise, Fla., and Tampa.

Several NHL teams host similar father-son trips, but this is the first one for the Capitals since majority owner Ted Leonsis assumed control of the team in 1999.

Among the men are former NHL goaltender Bob Johnson (Brent's father), former Stittsville, Ontario, mayor Paul Bradley (Matt's father) and former World Hockey Association center Bill Laing (Quintin's father). Some, such as Jonn Morrisonn and Rick Pettinger, are traveling from as far as British Columbia.

"My dad doesn't get excited about a lot of things, but he can't stop smiling about this," said right wing Eric Fehr, whose father, Frank, is coming from Winkler, Manitoba. "He keeps calling to thank me. He's so happy to get to hang out with the other dads -- and get a trip to Florida, too."

While many of the fathers are excited to be trading a harsh winter for golfing, boating and fishing in South Florida, the next four days are not a vacation for the players. Indeed, it can be argued this is one of the organization's most important road trips in recent years, considering the proximity of the Capitals, Thrashers, Panthers and Lightning in the standings.

"We're playing everybody that we have to beat," Boudreau said.

Many players said traveling with their fathers will bring back memories of road-tripping to youth tournaments. It figures to be particularly emotional for Boudreau and goaltender Olie Kolzig, both of whom lost their fathers in recent years. Kolzig will be accompanied by Brent Chigbrow, his father-in-law.

"I'm quite jealous that my father isn't around," said Boudreau, in his third month as an NHL coach. "I know he would be as proud as a peacock. . . .

"The guys will be minding their P's and Q's, that's for sure. Hopefully we'll have some fun and take care of business at the same time."

His players concurred.

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