Father-son night arrived Friday for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The occasion was the now-annual road trip for the fathers of the Maple Leaf players. Nineteen of the Leafs' 24 players had their fathers at the Maple Leafs practice and the plan was for them to travel together to Montreal for Saturday night's game against the Canadiens.
What started as a nice gesture by a few NHL teams several years ago has become an annual jaunt for most teams. The Leafs started inviting fathers along in 2007 when John Ferguson was the general manager.
The father who came the farthest for the three-day get-together was Yury Grabovski, father of Mikhail, the Leafs' hottest scorer. The elder Grabovski, whose English is a little better than most reporters' Russian, said it took him 25 hours to make the 7,158-kilometre trip to Toronto from Minsk, Belarus. But he only had to change planes once, in Frankfurt, Germany.
Barry Brown, father of Leafs' winger Mike, drew the most interest from the folks toting cameras. He runs a Harley-Davidson dealership in Chicago and looks every bit the part. Where son Mike has the best Fu Manchu moustache on the team, father Barry sports a beard styled after Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top fame.