Submitted by Howden family
Saturday, May 6, 2023 | 2 a.m.
It used to be difficult for Brett Howden to go home and not think about hockey.
It’s human nature for hockey players. Whether it be after a bad game or thinking about the next one on the schedule, it’s hard-wired in a player’s brain to not flip the switch so easily.
Now, when the Vegas Golden Knights center goes home, he’s had to sharply adjust his priorities. It’s easy to do that with a newborn baby his life.
Howden’s wife Meike gave birth to their first child on April 13, a son named Charlie. Howden missed the Golden Knights’ 3-1 road win in the season finale in Seattle that gave Vegas the Pacific Division title as well as the top seed in the Western Conference.
Howden returned to practice two days later, beaming ear-to-ear any time someone mentioned Charlie.
“I feel like now, I go home and everything I want to worry about is right there,” Howden said. “It’s cool how your perspective changes. It’s pretty special.”
The cliches about the Stanley Cup Playoffs are true. It’s the time of year when players are dialed in. The intensity level is raised, knowing that teams will do everything they can to be the last team standing come late June.
With the Goiden Knights ready to take on the Edmonton Oilers in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series Saturday at T-Mobile Arena (4 p.m., TNT, FOX Sports Las Vegas 98.9 FM/1340 AM), there is also a focus on fatherhood.
And Howden isn’t the only one with a new little one.
Brayden McNabb’s wife, Lelanie, gave birth to their son during the first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets. Mark Stone and his wife, Hayley, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Scarlett, on March 20, and William Karlsson’s wife Emily is due to give birth to a son at any moment.
The four have talked throughout the season, knowing the births were bound to happen around the same time. What will it be like? How will they be as dads? These are questions they’ve thrown around to each other almost daily.
“You can’t really explain it,” said forward William Carrier, who is the father of two kids. “We’ve been telling them, and they’ve been asking all year, ‘How is it going to be?’ You’ve just got to live it.”
While the players have been able to focus on the ice, Howden said the wives have leaned on each other throughout this journey.
“It’s pretty crazy how it all worked out at the same time,” Howden said.
Stone might have had the easiest transition to fatherhood.
Scarlett was born as Stone continued to rehab from his second back surgery. The Golden Knights captain got to be home for the first month of her life. Both his and Hayley’s parents have been in town, eager to help in any way they can.
Stone worked hard to get back in time for the playoffs. The emotion in his voice describing the mental aspect of working his way back was the sentiment of someone who wants to win a Stanley Cup for his team.
His parents, Rob and Jackie, made many sacrifices to see him and brother Michael — a defenseman for the Calgary Flames — make it to the NHL.
Hockey is a big part of Mark Stone’s life. It’s on display every time in the emotion he shows when he scores a goal, or when his teammates make a big play. Being there at the earliest stages of Scarlett’s life allowed him to take a mental reprieve from hockey and gain an even greater importance and appreciation of family.
“My parents are hockey parents, so they understand how much (hockey) means to me,” Stone said. “They’ve been able to help as much as they can. But when you leave the rink, you’re a dad and you just enjoy it.”
It’s an exciting time for the Karlsson house, but the Golden Knights center would be lying if there wasn’t some sort of angst that came with it. There could be a chance that Karlsson misses a game during the postseason. Of course, Karlsson won’t be mad if he has to sit out a playoff game. But he’s also thankful for the support system of family and friends that Emily has.
“We’ll see how I feel once it gets closer, but hopefully I won’t have to miss a game for it,” he said.
One thing’s for sure: The new dads aren’t short on advice from the locker room.
There are other Golden Knights with more than one child. Alex Pietrangelo has four kids — including triplets — Jonathan Marchessault also has four.
Even forwards Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith can lend some advice with both having kids that are less than a year old.
“There’s a lot for me to ask and talk about,” Karlsson said. “It’s nice to have the guys who have been through it.”
Pietrangelo said that with the playoffs being an emotional roller coaster, going home to a family with kids can be a mental release from the stresses at the rink.
“It’s a little shock when it happens at first. It’s definitely a life adjustment,” Pietrangelo said. “But I think everyone’s wives are pretty understandable of the situation we’re in and guys know what they’ve got to do.”
Patience is the one piece of advice the new dads have received more than anything else. To be able to balance the emotions and separate work from home.
Having that mentality when coming to work can be a good thing.
“There’s some stress involved. Your first child, how’s the health of the mother, the baby,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think guys are in a better place. I think you get a better balance. Suddenly, you get a taste of that and hockey isn’t your whole world.”
Carrier said the locker room has vibes of the inaugural season, when players in nearly the entire locker room already had kids or was on the verge of having their first. Carrier was the young kid, at the time, who observed fatherhood from a distance.
“Now, it’s the opposite,” he said with a laugh.
The players’ wives will gather at a corner of the rink at T-Mobile Arena on game days during warmups. They’ll almost always have their kids with them, putting them near the glass so that they can say hi to Dad.
It’s a moment that Howden, Stone, Karlsson and McNabb will soon get to experience themselves. As they skate around the ice readying for the game, that moment will remind them of what lies at home.
Perhaps that is what’s fueling their start to the playoffs.
Stone had three goals and five assists in the five-game series victory over the Jets, his first appearance in three months. Howden had four points, including the first two-goal game of his career in the Game 4 victory in Winnipeg. Karlsson scored four goals in the series.
In the Golden Knights’ 6-4 win over the Oilers in Game 1 of the second round Wednesday night, Stone tallied a goal and an assist, while Howden and Karlsson each picked up an assist. McNabb, who missed the clincher against Winnipeg with an upper-body injury, returned to the lineup against Edmonton and played his usual shutdown role.
When Pietrangelo won the Stanley Cup in 2019 with the St. Louis Blues, his triplets were at 18 months old. One of his best memories is sitting them in the bowl of the Stanley Cup. He goes through those pictures at times while on the plane to relive those memories because “they happen so fast,” he said.
Winning the Stanley Cup will be the memory of a lifetime for the Golden Knights. Winning it and creating memories with their kids might be more special.
“You come to the rink, you give your best effort for three hours here, and then you can just go home and help out around the house and spend time with your daughter,” Stone said. “It’s only been a month, but it’s fun seeing her grow.”
Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected] Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.