New teammates this season, Taylor Chorney and Marcus Johansson quickly realized they had something in common: a due date.
“We didn’t know each other when it happened,” Johansson said with a laugh. “But I think one of the first weeks we were here, we went to the hospital at the same time.”
“Same due date, same doctor,” Chorney said. “Some of the appointments and stuff throughout the whole pregnancy, we were crossing paths and just kind of comparing how everything was going.”
Johansson’s daughter was born Feb. 25, and Chorney’s son, Turner, arrived Feb. 29, a leap-year baby. The Washington Capitals’ trade with the Buffalo Sabres for Mike Weber not only gave the team an extra defenseman, it gave them a third baby born last week. Weber’s wife went into labor with his second son Thursday.
The recent baby boom now makes 18 offspring for the Capitals, with 14 of the 24 players having children. It’s a happy time for a team that already considers itself a family.
“It’s crazy,” Johansson said. “A lot of guys have been here a long time, and I guess we’re growing up together. It’s a lot of fun. It’s cool to see that a lot of guys are getting to that point in their life.”
“Us and Burky,” goaltender Braden Holtby later clarified, counting his 21-year-old teammate Andre Burakovsky as one of the children.
Johansson’s daughter arrived first, and he was at the Capitals’ practice rink Friday morning. A hospital bracelet was still on his wrist, and teammates already had begun ribbing him about the unfortunate sleep patterns in his future. Holtby joked that Johansson is “a pretty sleepy guy,” so he wasn’t sure how he’d handle a new baby. (“Get your sleep on the road” was Holtby’s advice.)
Fatherhood has seemed to suit Johansson. On Sunday in Chicago, he scored a power-play goal with some impressive hand-eye coordination, batting in a rebound from Justin Williams’s slap shot while it was still in the air.
— CAPITALS HILL (@CapitalsHill) February 28, 2016
“It’s cool because guys that you wouldn’t expect to be dads necessarily, just kind of the way they live their lives, it helps them grow up pretty fast,” Karl Alzner said. “It’s fun to see them in a different setting.”
A trade made the week that Weber’s second son was born all the more memorable. When he was still with the Sabres, he nearly had to rush home from a road trip because his wife had contractions. That was a false alarm, but on the next road trip to Anaheim, Weber learned he had been traded to the Capitals.
He flew back to Buffalo to pack some things, and he was on his way to Washington when his wife called him. She was with her family in Detroit and was going into labor there, so Weber turned the car around. He arrived in Washington on Friday night and was practicing Saturday, but the rest of the family has yet to join him.
“It’s going to be tough,” Weber said. “We’ve talked about it obviously, with the little one only being a few days old. It’s going to be tough for him to travel right now. She’s going to be getting in for a couple visits here and there and we’ll try to sort that part out. That’s the tough part about the game. We’ll work on that away from it.”
Weber’s phone buzzed with texts from his new teammates congratulating him after they learned his second son was born. Chorney was one of the players who reached out, eager to tell Weber that he too expected to have a baby arrive soon. He and his wife, Haley, didn’t know if they were having a boy or a girl, wanting it to be a surprise.
Turner arrived Monday night, born just before the leap day ended. Taylor Chorney was at the team’s morning skate Tuesday, but was eager to get back to the hospital. Like Johansson, he still had his hospital bracelet on.
“If you ever walk into it or just even by the wives’ lounge on a game day, it’s like a daycare in there,” Chorney said. “Kids are just bouncing off the walls. It’ll be cool to add another one to the mix and just for all of those kids to be able to grow up a little bit together. I think even just as young parents, everybody can kind of go through it together. …
“One thing is you just gain a whole new admiration for your wife. What they go through is absolutely incredible. You’re supposed to be the big, tough guy hockey player, but to see your wife go through something like that is pretty humbling. It was unbelievable.”
Chorney wasn’t in the lineup Tuesday night, but with Nate Schmidt scratched because of a lower-body injury, Chorney played on little sleep against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Late in the first period, he scored his first Capitals goal – and just the second of his career. On the team’s next shift, he was on the ice for Alex Ovechkin’s goal.
Sidney Crosby once told me a player always gets a goal in his first game after having a kid. https://t.co/3zymmvyJat
— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) March 3, 2016
“It could have gone a number of different ways, but it’s definitely kind of cool,” Chorney said. “Hopefully, some day he’ll be able to go back and jump on YouTube and see the goal. Maybe I’ll keep the puck for him.”