When the Vancouver Canucks boarded Air Canucks Monday morning to begin a two-game road trip, the majority of them were freshly shaved, their language was clean, posture outstanding and there wasn’t a wrinkled shirt in the bunch.
The Canucks are usually polished to travel, but this was on another level.
“Derek, this is my mom Erin,” said Jared McCann, as the two made their way down the aisle.
It’s the mom’s trip, of course. Now it all makes sense.
The atmosphere on the flight to Denver was lighthearted, yet there was nervousness in the air, in the air. The well-behaved Canucks introduced their moms and met others moms left and right; in total there are 18 players with moms on the trip and at least double that including moms and guests of coaches, trainers and some team staff.
Although we’re meeting these mothers for the first time, Canucks TV interviewed the players about their moms leading up to the trip, so we know all about them. Pat Cracknell, for example, is from Saskatchewan and she’ll be BFFs with every mom before we land, according to son Adam. Connie Sutter is a trip veteran, said Brandon, as she did a mother’s trip when he played for the Penguins. Isabella Sbisa means everything to Luca, a proud “mama’s boy,” while Patricia Etem helped shape her son into a professional athlete like few mothers can.
Patricia attended the University of California, Berkeley, in 1974. The sport of Women’s Rowing launched as a collegiate sport in 1976, the year it also became a women’s Olympic event. She joined the crew in ’76 and upon being inducted into the Cal Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990, Patricia, the Cal Crew Athlete of the Decade from 1976-1986, had won medals at regattas, regionals, districts, nationals and world championships and been a member of the USA Women’s Olympic Team in 1980 (boycott year) and 1984, placing fourth in Los Angeles.
Let’s just say Emerson didn’t have to look far to find his sporting idol. Patricia was a daily inspiration, one leading by example with grueling daily workouts mirroring her Olympic training days.
“Her career was over before I was born, but she keeps active and is in fantastic shape,” said Emerson. “She still works out every day to make sure she’s feeling healthy; it’s a full time gig for her making sure my brother, sister and I are prepared in every day life and doing everything we can to reach our goals.
“Both my parents, my mom especially, put in the extra time and that carried over and became natural to me,” added Emerson. “It’s pretty special having a mom who has the pedigree of an Olympian, and it’s amazing having such hardworking parents. It’s why a lot of us are here.”
Patricia, who graduated with her Masters of Public Health in 1985, lives in Long Beach, California, and is still practicing what she preaches with 90-minute daily workouts. You won’t find any junk food in the Etem home either; Patricia and husband Richard raised their children eating fruit as dessert, with the exception of birthdays when cake was on the menu.
It’s tough to argue the strict upbringing didn’t produce results as Emerson was a first-round draft pick by the Anaheim Ducks and his brother and sister rowed as scholar-athletes at Syracuse University and UC Berkeley.
“I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” said Emerson proudly. “My mom pushed and helped me become who I am today.”
The schedule for the three-day road trip includes a team dinner Monday evening before back-to-back games in Denver and Phoenix. There will be stories told and laughs shared, perhaps some wine and shopping, and I’m guessing at least one mom in the hotel gyms.
Is there any better way to spend Family Day than with your mother, aboard Air Canucks? The moms and sons are loving this experience, and as someone who was cheering for the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, I’m loving that we’re in Denver for the Broncos Super Bowl parade Tuesday.
Two big wins, coming up!