It’s only natural that sons want to make their fathers proud, especially by following in their footsteps.
But when dad is a former National Hockey League player, that can be a little more daunting.
Jarred Tinordi and Chase Hatcher seem to be doing OK so far.
The two are at their first London Knights camp and tasted their first on-ice action Wednesday at the John Labatt Centre as the team began its intrasquad scrimmages. Hatcher’s White squad beat Tinordi’s Gold team 4-2.
“I was a little nervous, a little rusty, but I felt better toward the end,” Hatcher said, echoing Tinordi’s relief to finally be back on skates in a competitive situation.
Both admit growing up in the NHL culture was a lot of fun.
“It was pretty cool, even though I was pretty young at the time,” said Tinordi, 18. “My dad (Mark) would take me to afternoon practice along with my brothers and some of the other kids in the neighbourhood. We’d check out the pros’ sticks, put on some of the equipment, but we didn’t know at that age what it all really meant.”
Both said being the son of an NHLer helped immensely when it came to their own fledgling hockey careers.
“He told me what to do and what not to do,” 16-year-old Hatcher said of his father Derian, one of the best U.S.-born defencemen to play in the NHL. “He showed me the right way to play — be physical, make the right decisions on the ice and protect the puck.”
While other kids might be envious of another whose father is a famous athlete, neither said it was much of a problem growing up.
“There are always those kids out there who will try to give it to you, you know, ’Let’s ride him a bit,’ ” Tinordi said, although at 6-foot-6 and 212 pounds it’s now him doing the riding — into the boards.
And while there were others who naturally assumed the pair would go down the same path their fathers took, they said it was ultimately their decision.
“Playing hockey was for me. No one forced me,” Tinordi said. “It was never anything like, ’I’ve got to do this because they expect me to.’ ”
Added Hatcher: “This was always my choice. My dad told me if this was what I wanted to do, he wasn’t going to push me and that made it easier for me.”
Ironically, their fathers were teammates with the Minnesota North Stars from 1991-93, but they were too young at the time to remember ever meeting before. And they have something else in common — February birthdays two days apart.
But there are differences as well. Tinordi, like his dad, is a defenceman. Hatcher is a left winger. And while Tinordi is a first-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens who’s expected to do big things for the Knights this season, Hatcher is an eighth-round pick, 145th overall, in the 2010 OHL draft who’s going to have to work for a spot on the roster.
“All I can do is play my game, take the body. I think my chances are good,” Hatcher said.
Tinordi, who leaves for the Habs’ camp Sept. 10, said he’s not taking anything as a given.
“You still have to go out there and work hard. You can never feel too comfortable; you’ve always got to work hard every week at getting better.”
If there’s anyone who knows what it’s like to be an NHL dad, it’s Knights head coach Dale Hunter, whose own sons Tucker and Dylan both played for the Knights. Dale Hunter said Hatcher and Tinordi can only benefit from their own fathers’ experiences.
“They would have emphasized hard work, because they both knew that’s what it takes to play at the top level. And having been around it a little bit, these kids know what to expect a little more. They realize how big a business this is and they’ll know how to prepare. And they’ll know now why their dad was always taking a nap at two in the afternoon.”
There could have been a third son of an NHL star in camp, but right winger Taylor Joseph, a 15th-round draft pick in 2010 whose dad Curtis made a name for himself as a goaltender, broke an ankle this summer.
With 86 players in camp and that number having to be pared down to a manageable level — bearing in mind those players who will be at NHL camps — by Friday’s exhibition opener at the JLC against the Sarnia Sting, competition for spots gets understandably fierce. There were three spirited bouts in the Gold-White game. Nothing unusual there, Hunter said.
“Kids come in here and work hard to push each other and sometimes they get a little pissed off,” he said with a smile that indicated he liked the passion on display.
All four intrasquad teams play twice again Thursday before the cuts are made before the home-and-home with the Sting.
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Knights exhibition schedule
Friday — vs. Sarnia at John Labatt Centre, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday — at Sarnia, 7 p.m.
Sept. 10 — vs. Plymouth at JLC, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 — vs. Plymouth at St. Thomas, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 — vs. Peterborough at JLC, 7:30 p.m.