R.I.P., TRH DAD


When I was 11 years old, Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings on a Tuesday. The following Saturday, the AYSO team that I played soccer for was shorthanded and I volunteered to be the goalie. With a few minutes left in the game, I surrendered the 8th goal against in a lopsided loss. With the reddest of faces, I charged huffing and puffing to the sidelines… ripping off the goalie gloves I had borrowed. I walked up to my dad (who also happened to be the Coach) and stared him directly in his eyes.

“That’s it… I want to play hockey.”

And thus began a lifelong love for the game of hockey within my family.

Last Wednesday, my father passed away suddenly while sleeping. It can feel a bit cliche to talk about how fathers and sons bond over sports… but for my father and I, it really was unique. Both my parents had been extremely active in Little League Baseball and AYSO. In fact, my father used to joke that his favorite team to coach was a team of orphans… so that you’d never have to deal with parents. As a baseball coach, my father was into Moneyball around the time Billy Beane was being drafted out of high school. My dad didn’t want kids swinging for the fences… he wanted batters that were patient enough to take a walk and selective enough to slap singles and doubles to get them home. He believed in this philosophy so much that he threatened to bench any kid that hit a home run. Well, when yours truly knocked a ball over the center field fence while playing for a TRH Dad-coached team… he benched me. But not before he told me “nice hit.”

Within a few years of my declaration that I wanted to play ice hockey in Los Angeles, my father and mother had given up on running baseball and soccer leagues and were now 100% committed to furthering the sport of hockey in Southern California. Even when my team wasn’t playing, they were at the rink early to make sure teams had the right locker rooms. They spent holidays running tournaments involving teams from all over the country. And even went I went away to college and was no longer playing youth hockey… they helped turn around the LA Jr. Kings program and my dad served on the board of USA Hockey. (My mom had an even more illustrious career in Southern California youth hockey… but that’s for another time.)

The two greatest Hockey Dads of all-time.

In 2012, I was able to give my dad something back for his years of dedication to my hockey career.

I took him to Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

And of course, the LA Kings lost.

My dad loved everything about The Royal Half. He read every single article. He listened to every single Sirius XM appearance and All The Kings Men Podcast. And even though he never quite got the hang of Twitter… he had my mom read most of my Tweets to him.

He couldn’t believe that something I had started because I was bored one day had turned into a Press Pass for the LA Kings. And my dad treated all the members of #TeamTRH like they were his own players. Just ask PumperNicholl about the time my father told him to his face that the Podcast was better without Pumper. And for the last year or so… my dad would email hockey articles to me with the signature “TRH Cub Reporter.”

And when the LA Kings were in danger of being swept in the 1st Round against the San Jose Sharks this past post-season…

I’ve been numb most of the past week. When we are presented with these type of challenges in life, it seems like there are two paths you can take. You can sit there, tears streaming down your face as you ponder what life is going to be like without your loving father.

Or you can try to stay busy… be a “leader”… calling friends and family to let them know what’s happened, digging into your fathers finances to make sure all the bills for the next month are going to be paid so your mom doesn’t need to worry about it. Basically keeping active in an effort to not think about what the future holds.

But here’s the thing… no matter which path you choose… the tears still stream down your face. Especially that moment after you’ve run out of things to occupy yourself with and you realize you’ll never be able to watch a hockey game with your dad again.

 

 

Even though it was introduced to him later in life… hockey had become such a daily part of the conversations between my father and I. And although he never learned how to skate, he worked hard to understand the rules of the game. He earned a “Master Level” coaching certification with USA Hockey and understood that in order for Southern California youth hockey to get better… the coaches had to get better. He even asked me a few weeks ago what CORSI was. His response was “well, that makes sense.”

Thankfully, hockey wasn’t the only thing we ever chatted about. We had a great friendship but like any father and son we had differing viewpoints on the world. But the one thing that always united us was the hope that the LA Kings would win the Stanley Cup within our lifetimes.

Well… he got to see it twice.

If after a loss, your favorite hockey player said “we need to take it one day at a time”… it would drive you crazy. But that really does seem to be all one can do in this situation. So tonight, get off of Twitter and Facebook and whatever else keeps you staring at your phone… and use it for its intended purpose. Call those close to you and tell them that you love them.

The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season Ticket Holder since 2002. He has seen the following goaltenders play in person for the Los Angeles Kings… Kelly Hrudey, Grant Fuhr, Byron Dafoe, Jamie Storr, Stephane Fiset, Felix Potvin, Cristobal Huet, Roman Cechmanek, Mathieu Garon, Adam Hauser, Jason LaBarbera, Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Dan Cloutier, Yutaka Fukufuji, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones.You can follow The Royal Half on Twitter @TheRoyalHalf.
  • chucksmith3

    Your dad sounds pretty excellent. Very sorry for your loss.

  • Matthew

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I always loved hearing what your dad had to say. Again, my condolences to you and your family

  • Amy Eubanks

    This is a wonderful tribute to your dad. It sounds like he was a lot of fun. My deepest condolences to your family.

  • http://www.benchedwhale.com Dani Toth

    Sorry to hear about your loss TRH. This post is beautiful.

  • Teach

    My dad has been gone from this Earth, (he’s always in my heart and mind), for almost 10 years. I’d like to tell you that over time, the pain of not being able to talk with or see him lessens..it doesn’t and that is OK :). Just know that the memories you have of your father will soothe the hurt. Hugs.

  • Reo Manning

    I’m sorry for your loss. From the sound of it, if I can be half the father to my kids that your dad was to your family, I will have more than succeeded in life.

    • Mik3ysfv

      Sorry, Half. I lost my dad almost 5yrs ago. I still expect to see him. Can’t explain it. It’s pretty cool when your dad is your best friend, devastating when he passes. God bless.

  • shiny

    So sorry for your loss. Sounds like you had a great relationship with your dad. My deepest sympathies and prayers for your family

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    <3

  • Gritty Hombres

    Nothing can be written to ease the pain or explain the sorrow. I’ve been through it twice with my own parents.

    My advice is that right now things will be a haze, and you’ll be strong, and you’ll get through it all best as you can with your family, because that’s what sons do. One night though, it will wash over you like a cold wave and you will feel very young, and very alone and you will miss your dad in ways you didn’t realize you could. That is the night for a stiff drink or two, and the presence of a friend who knows how not to say much.

    In the end it’s a terrible thing, and I can only send my best wishes and prayers for rememberences unending, and that all your sorrows are touched by at least some joy.

  • Natasha Andjelkovic

    I am so sorry for your loss. Reading about the bond you had with your dad was so wonderful. He sounds like the greatest dad ever. Next month will be 4 years since I lost my dad and I still miss him every day, and tears are still streaming down every once in a while (like right now). Much love to you and your family.

  • Joe Carrillo Sr.

    TRH – so very sorry for your loss. Condolences to TRH Dad’s entire family and circle of friends! THIS is an #EPIC tribute to your dad and, for sure, he is smiling down on you! “NICE HIT”, indeed!! It does get a little easier, over time, but it’s nice to keep them close with the memories because there are smiles at the end of the tears! Stay strong TRH!

  • Kate Royce

    I loved the anecdotes you shared. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • jim ercek

    Sorry for your loss, condolences to you and the family.

  • Protect This Throne

    I am so sorry, TRH. This is a beautiful, loving, touching tribute to your father. He sounds like an excellent man and father. It brought me to tears. My husband and I will be thinking about you and your family. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • cari

    A lovely tribute. Sorry for your loss.

  • lesliegodwin

    In a time when fathers try to be cool and hip or otherwise “relevant”, your dad sounds like he was a great dad because he was a mensch and loving father. I listen to every “All the Kings Men” podcasts and especially enjoy your banter with Jessie, but this very serious and personal column is incredibly touching and inspired. I’m praying for you and your family and am very sorry for your loss.

  • mbvswb

    *Clapping and crying at the same time.*

  • Dean

    Awesome post