CHICAGO — Parts of those early fathers’ trips could be a nuisance for both Orpiks. Brooks, known for his strict routine, would head to bed early the night before games. His father, Rick, along for the ride for one NHL trip a season, would tiptoe back into the hotel room late after spending some quality time with the other players’ dads.
“It was impossible to sneak into the room,” Rick said. “He’d tell me, ‘You came in at 4:24.’ ”
Said Brooks: “The dads had way too much fun, so them rooming with us wasn’t a very good combination. There was a severe lack of sleep for the players. They’d start snoring and fall right to sleep, and you were up for the rest of the night.”
Coach Barry Trotz’s Nashville Predators were the first to do a fathers’ trip in 1999, and it’s an annual tradition for most teams now. Fortunately for the Orpiks, Brooks now has his own room, and Rick stays with one of the other dads. They’re veterans with 37-year-old Brooks in his 14th season, but as the Washington Capitals have their dads along for games in Minnesota and Chicago, the luster hasn’t worn off for the Orpiks.
“He comes on every one,” Brooks said. “The dads, they get so excited for it every year, and they definitely mark it off their calendars. I know a lot of guys do whatever they can to make it work, so there’s usually not a lot of no-shows. They have a lot of fun, I think. Obviously, the kids have a lot of fun with it, too. I think as you get older, especially with our travel schedule and our jobs, you probably don’t see them as much as you’d want to, so it’s a good opportunity for us to get a couple days together, especially on the road during the season when normally you go long durations without seeing them.”
Brooks was born in September 1980, just a few months after the United States’ miraculous ice hockey victory over Russia in the Olympics. Rick had played hockey growing up, and he convinced his wife to name their son after Herb Brooks, the coach of the gold medal-winning team. “We didn’t want ‘Herb,’ ” Rick said.
Though Brooks’s first love was baseball because he was born in Northern California, he started playing hockey when the family moved to New York, as a 7-year-old playing with kids three and four years younger than him because he was so new to it. Rick joked that Brooks “liked the snack bar,” so he stuck with the sport despite some early trouble. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brooks Orpik met Herb Brooks on the NHL draft floor in 2000 because the iconic coach was working for Pittsburgh’s front office at the time.
As Rick has attended 12 of these trips, he has gotten an up-close look at how his son’s career has evolved from that first trip. He’s subjected to Brooks’s ultra-healthy diet. “He’s actually helped me a bit to lose weight, but as stringent a diet as he has, no,” Rick said. Brooks has gone from being one of the youngest players in the locker room to the oldest one with Washington, and it’s fun for Rick to see his bond with rookie defenseman Madison Bowey. “He sees something in him,” Rick said.
“Sometimes I question who’s the parent and who’s the child with him — he’s that mature,” Rick said. “I get a little stupid sometimes, and he’s like, ‘Dad!’ ”
Here’s how the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Alex Chiasson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson-Jay Beagle-Devante Smith-Pelly
Scratched: Jakub Vrana
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Scratched: Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter)
Read more Capitals coverage: