PARADISE, N.L.—Maple Leafs centre John Tavares certainly sounds as if he’s embraced the idea of being a father, with all that entails, as much as he likes being a hockey player.
“It’s a very emotional thing and it’s still kicking in, really thinking I’m a dad. It’s been pretty cool, though,” said Tavares, who joined the team for his first workout Sunday after some extra time back home with his wife and newborn son.
“I think mentally it will be just an amazing thing to be a father and to go home and have (Jace) and my wife (Aryne) to look forward to, and just cherish those times and those memories. That’s what life is all about.”
As he looks around the locker room, the soon to be 29-year-old Tavares is one of the older Leafs, meaning there aren’t a lot of teammates who can offer guidance on the trials and tribulations of being a dad.
“We have a pretty young team,” said Tavares. “I’ve known (Jason Spezza) for a long time and he’s got four girls, so he has his hands full every day. I talk to him a lot. And then seeing (Jake Muzzin) going through it at the end of last season, a baby is pretty close. It’s nice to have a couple guys for sure.”
No question life with a newborn means change, but for the routine of an athlete — where sleep is important and travel comes with the job description — the challenges can be difficult. Tavares said his family and in-laws have been a big help. “From my mother-in-law to my parents stopping in a couple times, siblings and what not, it’s pretty incredible. It’s a very emotional thing.”
Spezza said the reality for players is that the mother does most of the work early on.
“You have to focus at the rink, then you get home and enjoy,” said Spezza. “It’s pretty special to have your first baby, soak it in. You create energy from it. (Tavares) is a good pro. He’ll be fine.”
As teammates offered congratulations to the famously uber-focused Tavares, Mitch Marner had an interesting thought.
“(Tavares) might be a little looser now that he’s got a kid, which could be nice in the locker room,” said Marner.
Coach Mike Babcock shot that down right away.
“I think he’s as loose as can be,” said the coach. “He’s serious about his craft, very professional, very driven, knows what he wants, not letting people get in his way. But he sure is unbelievable with his teammates. A good person, knows what’s right and wrong.”
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On that front, Tavares knew that staying with his wife and their newborn son was more important than a couple of days of camp. To the organization’s credit, they let him.
“I really appreciate the team and management giving me the first couple days of camp to really make sure my wife and son were recovering well, doing good … and for me, feeling good about that (before) coming out here,” said Tavares. “I really appreciate that from the organization and I just tried to take advantage of it — tried to soak in every minute, every little thing that he does. It’s pretty incredible.”