5 Best Dad Strength Performances in NHL History

When it comes to being a parent, nothing compares to how challenging yet rewarding it can be as a life experience. It comes with its many ups and downs, sleepless nights, and endless smiles. For players in the NHL, it becomes a balancing act between raising the next generation in their bloodline and keeping up to speed with the pace of a professional sports league. This leads many to believe that a player returning after the birth of a child possesses dad strength. Whether it’s the pride of becoming a parent or the rush of excitement that propels these players to do wonderful things, there are many examples of dad strength that are worthy of highlighting.

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Recently, the Nashville Predators‘ rookie Tanner Jeannot exemplified this after registering his first-career Gordie Howe hat trick in the game following the birth of his child, Jayce Robert Patrick Jeannot. Despite playing on the team’s third line and receiving little-to-no time on the power play, he still leads all rookies in goals and the league in fighting majors. Amazing to think he didn’t register the infamous hat trick until he became a father, despite dropping the gloves on 12 occasions. In the next game, Jeannot registered a goal in a 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators, bringing his total to 23, three ahead of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting and Detroit Red Wings’ Lucas Raymond.

Throughout the NHL’s history, there have been several more stories related to players going on adrenaline-rushed stints of greatness, whether it’s a game or two or a month-long series of dominance. The following five players are perfect examples of what dad strength is all about.

John Carlson’s 2018 Stanley Cup Stretch

On May 4, 2018, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson and his partner, Gina, welcomed their second child into the world. The couple experienced difficulties with their past pregnancies following the birth of their first child, and the little miracle came out healthy and brought his parents and the Capitals team pure happiness. The birth also took place during the second round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs while the team was up against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Carlson returned to the team for game five, one day after his second child arrived.

John Carlson, Washington Capitals
John Carlson, Washington Capitals (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hans Deryk)

Carlson scored one goal, the Capitals’ opening goal of the game, in a 6-3 victory. While leading the team in time on ice among defensemen, he finished the game a plus-2 with four shots on net and two hits. The Capitals eliminated the Penguins in six games, in what is recognized as the proverbial monkey off the team’s back. In the following round, he was instrumental to the team’s seven-game series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, averaging nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game and registering five assists. He added two goals and two assists in five games against the Vegas Golden Knights, aiding the Capitals in a five-game series win and capturing their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Kyle Palmieri’s Memorable February in 2022

In late September 2021, the wife of Kyle Palmieri, Ashlee, took to Instagram to announce she was pregnant. On Feb. 6 of the following year, the couple welcomed little Luca Reid, announcing the birth of their healthy baby on Ashlee’s social media account. At the same time, the New York Islanders were hitting the road for a Western Canada trip, playing three teams in four nights. Palmieri missed all three games but returned for the Feb. 15 game against the Buffalo Sabres. He scored the Islanders’ opening goal and added his second of the night in the third period, despite the Islanders’ 6-3 defeat against the Sabres. After going all season with just one goal to his name, his two-goal performance doubled his production from the previous 29 games.

It was only the start of what eventually became a month-long hot streak for Palmieri. In the next 14 games, he registered eight goals and four assists, helping the team to an 8-4-3 record during that span. The spark in offense surpassed his totals from the past two seasons combined, and it became one of the team’s brightest spots for the 2021-22 season. The first half of the season wasn’t too kind to Palmieri, or the Islanders organization, as the veteran forward looked snakebitten and a step behind each play. After missing the Feb. 9 game against the Vancouver Canucks to be there for his wife, he became a healthy scratch by head coach Barry Trotz the following two games. Fortunately for Trotz and the team, Palmieri was able to turn his season around directly following the series of events.

Matt Martin Becomes Playoff Beast in 2020

Sticking with Long Island, known tough guy Matt Martin is known for throwing big hits and bigger punches, but on July 14, 2020, he was throwing a celebration for the birth of his daughter. The new addition to his family came in a season where he scored five goals in 55 games and averaged under 11 minutes of ice time per game. It was a typical season for Martin, primarily used on the team’s fourth line with one goal in mind to hit everything in sight and cause some mayhem around the crease. Unfortunately for the Islanders’ opposition, this changed when August arrived and the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs began.

During Game 2 of the Stanley Cup qualifiers, Martin opened up the scoring for the Islanders in the second period, tying the game up at 1-1. The goal, at the time, was his second career playoff marker in 39 games, with his first coming way back during the 2013 postseason. The Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers in four games, moving on to face the Capitals.

While seeing more ice time in the playoffs than his previous three runs, Martin registered his second goal in Game 2 of the next round, eventually defeating Washington in five games. Next round, he added two more goals in a seven-game series victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, bringing his total to four. His efforts on the team’s fourth line catapulted the Islanders into a matchup against the highly-favoured Tampa Bay Lightning, and while the team failed to take down Steven Stamkos and the Lightning, he registered his fifth of the playoffs, tying his season total from the same year.

Given the fact that he had five goals in 55 games during the regular season, and that he had just one playoff goal to his name before the start of the 2020 postseason run, it’s safe to say dad strength gave him the boost he needed. Teammate Casey Cizikas even joked about it, pointing out that Martin’s success during their run can be tied back to the birth of his child. In a humorous response, Sydney Esiason Martin joked about having more kids as a result, though the league may not be ready for the potential of Martin scoring 40 goals in a season and carrying the Islanders on his back to a Stanley Cup win.

Patrice Bergeron Registers Dad Trick in 2015

When it comes to the NHL and the golden standard among two-way players, Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron is atop the best there is and ever was. A legend in the making, a sure-fire candidate for the Hockey Hall of Fame shortly after his eventual retirement, and a four-time Selke Trophy winner, there may never be another player like him ever again. On Oct. 21, 2015, Bergeron and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed Zack Bergeron into the world, the first of the family’s eventual three children. While most players take the next day or two off to celebrate the arrival of a new family member, for Patrice, it was right back to work.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In the first period of their game against the Flyers, Bergeron scored his fourth of the season, tying the game up at 2-2. Despite the team dropping a 5-4 decision against Philadelphia, he ended the night with a goal and an assist, leading Bruins fans to coin the term “The Dad Trick,” which entails a player scoring a goal, an assist, and a baby in the same day. His run wouldn’t end there, as he registered a career-high in goals that season with 32 and went on five multi-game point streaks. While the Bruins missed the playoffs by four points that year, Bergeron was the runner-up to the Selke Trophy, losing out to Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar. It was, however, the fifth consecutive year he finished top-2 in Selke voting, and he went on to win the award the following year.

Patrick Sharp Flexes Fatherly Muscles Twice

If there’s one thing that’s better than possessing dad strength, it’s doing it twice. For former Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp, that’s exactly what happened for him, two years apart. On Dec. 9, 2011, the Sharp family announced the birth of their first child, and nearly two years later, on Oct. 13, Abby Sharp gave birth a second time. The pair of beautiful little girls not only spread joy throughout their family, but it also sparked new life in Sharp’s performance that will live on in the minds of Blackhawks fans.

On Dec. 11, 2011, two days after the birth of his first daughter, Sharp scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the San Jose Sharks. The win also kicked off a successful end to the month, as the Blackhawks ended the calendar year winning seven of their last nine games. He registered four goals and four assists, ultimately ending the year with his third 30-goal season and helping the Blackhawks reach the postseason. Unfortunately, the team failed to make it out of the first round, but the following year they captured the franchise’s fifth Stanley Cup. For Sharp, it was his second ring in Chicago.

The Sharp family welcomed in a second daughter on Oct. 13, 2013, and the power of fatherhood reigned supreme once more. Again, two days after the birth of a child, Sharp came through for the Blackhawks, scoring the opening goal in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes and eventually scoring the only shootout goal to secure a 3-2 win. Like the year of his first child, he hit the 30-goal plateau for the fourth and final time of his career while registering a career-high 78 points. As a member of the 2014 Canadian Olympic roster, he won the gold medal, following it up the next year with his third Stanley Cup victory.

There are many other examples throughout the league’s history of players showcasing heightened performances following their introduction to fatherhood. While some have enjoyed individual success, others have catapulted a team into a Stanley Cup champion. It’s a unique concept to think that such a change in one’s personal life can affect their abilities in a professional setting, but hockey players are indeed a different breed.

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