Red Wings excited for mentoring, bonding time ahead of annual dads trip

Detroit News

Detroit — In a way Joe Veleno’s dad Tony is getting shortchanged.

These next two games on the Red Wings’ schedule is the annual dad/mentor trip, in Montreal (Thursday) and Long Island (Friday), as the Wings’ traveling party gets larger and noisier.

But for Tony Veleno, along with David Perron’s dad Francois, both of them live in Montreal. Veleno lives approximately 20 minutes from the Bell Centre. Both those dads met during the Wings’ party Tuesday afternoon at the team hotel.

But don’t think for a second Tony Veleno is disappointed in any way.

“He’s excited; he can’t wait,” said Joe Veleno after Monday. “Watching the game from a suite, being with other dads, he’s happy. It’s going to be his first (dads trip) and he’s just real happy.”

A large number of dads, mentors or brothers, arrived in time for Tuesday’s home game. Wednesday, they watched practice, attended meetings, and got ready for what’ll be hectic back to back road games.

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“It’s unique, and it is distracting at times, but at the same time there’s a reality to it and motivation to it, and I really enjoy these,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “In some ways it’s a must for the guys.”

Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime victory over San Jose wasn’t picture-perfect. Normally Lalonde might get pointed during video sessions the day after. But it was a bit different Wednesday.

“There were some holes in our game that we usually address, (but) it was a little more matter of fact in the meeting than it would have been had they not been there,” Lalonde said. “But it was good.”

Lalonde’s dad Jack is making the trip, the third such as trip the two have been involved with, the other two when Lalonde was an assistant coach in Tampa.

Jack Lalonde spends the winters in Florida and arrived in Detroit in time for the Sharks’ game. Derek actually had to work on his dad a little bit to attend.

“He finds this like work, three days in four nights, three different cities, he correlates that with being tired, which I can understand,” Derek Lalonde said. “But I talked him into it.”

In what can be a long, grueling, monotonous NHL schedule, a trip like this can eliminate the sameness and gives everyone something to look forward to.

Tyler Bertuzzi is expected to return to the lineup Thursday after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. Bertuzzi will have his dad Adrian on the trip.

“This is a great trip, everyone looks forward to it,” Tyler Bertuzzi said. “Obviously some bonding time with your dad, and you get to meet everyone else’s parents or whoever they’re bringing. The dinners, it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Bertuzzi always gets the same question from his dad as soon as the regular season schedule comes out.

“When is the dad’s trip?” said Bertuzzi, adding not having this sort of trip the last two years because of COVID restrictions and concerns has only heightened the anticipation. “Every year, he asks when.”

This will be the third such trip, on a third different team, for Olli Maatta’s dad Jari.

“It’s real cool for him seeing how it all works and all the facilities a team has,” Olli Maatta said. “This is definitely one of the best and the first thing he said was how impressed he was with all the things we have here.

“It’s all just so cool. They get to see the ins and outs, see us play and see what happens in practice and game day and with this trip, the back to back games and going across the border and see how that works.

“It’s exciting, and something to look forward to, especially at this time of year when sometimes you need that.”

For Joe Veleno, this being his first such trip, the smile was wide and genuine, knowing the flight to Montreal was coming soon.

“I’m real excited, this’ll be my first one and I’m just going to be happy to spend some time with my dad,” Veleno said. “He gets to watch a couple of games, and just having all the dads around brings in a good vibe and good atmosphere.

“It’s pretty cool.”

There is a bit of irony, and maybe karma, in that Veleno’s dad will be attending these next two games.

“My dad was mostly working so he didn’t get to come out too much (to any games), even in junior hockey,” Veleno said. “So it was my mo who’d come out to watch games, so now it’s kind of karma switched over that my dad gets to do this trip.

“But my mom (Lina) will be at the (Montreal) game obviously.”

Red Wings at Canadiens

▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Bell Centre, Montreal

▶ TV/radio: BSDextra/97.1 FM

▶ Outlook: Montreal (20-25-3) has hung in despite a slew of injuries to key players, and a youthful roster … C Nick Suzuki (16 goals, 38 points) and C Kirby Dach (10 goals, 31 points) lead offensively, while G Samuel Montembeault (10-9-2, .910 SVS) has played well recently.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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