David Krejci missed the Bruins’ morning skate on Thursday to be with wife Naomi as she gave birth to the couple’s second child, a boy yet to be named. With his wife’s permission, Krejci went home for a quick nap, rolled into TD Garden and notched two assists as his team hung a half-dozen goals on the best team in the Western Conference.
And you thought you were busy.
“Lots of thoughts going through your head, so just trying to stay in the moment,” Krejci told reporters on Thursday night in the victorious locker room. “Obviously, it’s hard. You just brought one of your kids into the world, so it’s always on your mind. It was tough to focus sometimes on the game, but just try to stay focused. Kept my head in the game. Talk on the bench and things like that. Teammates did a good job too.
“Just a special day and with a win at the end, just kind of the cherry on top of the cake.”
Krejci got a day off on Friday, offering him ample time to debate name choices with his wife and sharpen up those diapering skills. (Perhaps also sleep, though every father knows Mom deserves it more than you do in newborn land.) Posting assists on each of Jake DeBrusk’s two goals, the latter proving the game-winner, seems more than a dream on such a special day.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 4, 2019
We’re barely three years removed from teammate Patrice Bergeron doing almost the same thing. Bergeron had a goal and an assist against Philadelphia on Oct. 21, 2015, after missing the morning skate to be there for the birth of his first child, son Zack. (It wasn’t quite as perfect as Krejci’s night, if we’re splitting hairs — the Bruins lost in overtime.)
And then there’s Ray Bourque. His second son Chris was born three weeks premature on Jan. 29, 1986. Bourque, who’d traveled with the Bruins to Hartford the day before, took a $100 taxi ride back to Boston for the birth, carpooled with GM Harry Sinden to get back to Connecticut in time for the game, then scored the overtime winner plus two assists.
When it happened again five years later with younger son Ryan — who now plays with Chris, a Bruin himself in 2012-13, in the AHL — it was a relative piece of cake. Born at Beverly Hospital on a day the Bruins hosted Vancouver, Bourque simply “missed his first shift,” according to the Globe report that night, before posting a goal and an assist in a blowout win at Boston Garden.
The idea of players taking time off to be present for their families is largely accepted today, but not universally — lest we forget Michael Felger vs. Al Horford just three years ago. That’s largely a modern creation. In Terry Francona’s biography, he tells of informing his manager Pete Rose at the end of spring training in 1987 that he needed to return home, as his wife’s water had broken.
“That’s fine. Just don’t come back,” Francona quoted Rose as saying. (He missed the birth, something he never forgot the feeling of when he became a manager, but at least he homered on Opening Day.)
In October 1993, it was national news when the Houston Oilers fined lineman David Williams $111,000 for missing the team’s game in Foxborough against the Patriots because he’d remained in Houston following the birth of his son. Williams’ line coach neatly summarized the old school view, noting that “everybody wants to be with his wife, but that’s like if World War II was going on and you said, ‘I can’t go fly. My wife’s having a baby.'”
That feels a million years ago. Alonzo Mourning flew from Australia to Miami and back to be there for both his daughter’s birth and winning a gold medal during the 2000 Olympics. Francona let Jason Bay miss the final two games of a mid-September 2008 series with Tampa — with whom the Sox were battling for a division title — to see his child born. (They lost both, then lost the division by those two games.)
Opportunities like Krejci’s only come up rarely, but they’re joyous enough occasions that they’re worth celebrating. Some of recent vintage:
• Just before noon the day of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, 21-year-old Bret Saberhagen became a father. After rushing his wife to the hospital in the morning and staying with her into the afternoon, he headed to the ballpark and watched his Royals extend the series with a controversial victory. The next night, Saberhagen threw a five-hit shutout in Game 7 to cap a Cy Young-winning season with a World Series MVP and a son, Drew.
“Plenty of people still ask about him,” he told the Globe in 1999.
• The Knicks ended a 26-game losing streak at Boston Garden on May 6, 1990, eliminating the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs to boot. In their starting lineup that day was Gerald Wilkins, who had 12 points and eight assists despite starting the day in Chattanooga, Tenn., where his wife gave birth to a daughter. He drove to Atlanta, flew to Boston and played 27 minutes in the victory.
• Al Iafrate was playing just his fourth game for the Bruins on March 27, 1994, recently traded from Washington for Joe Juneau. He scored twice, including the game winner in a 6-4 victory against his former team in Landover, Md. He remained in Washington with the Bruins’ permission and his second child, Max, was born the following day.
• David Ortiz didn’t play on July 10, 2004, the date his first son — the now famous D’Angelo — was born, but he was at Fenway Park for the game. With D’Angelo born in the afternoon, Ortiz arrived 20 minutes before first pitch and was available to pinch hit. Manny Ramirez saw fit Ortiz wasn’t needed, driving in five and hitting a pair of home runs in a 14-6 win.
“I told him he better have a present for my boy,” Ortiz told reporters, “so there you go.”
• Brett Quigley earned a rare berth to the Masters in 2007, but with the due date for his first child the week after the event, he joked Augusta would end up part of his daughter’s name. Sure enough, he had to run out on a Tuesday practice round after 10 holes to make it to Florida for her birth, but was back in time to make the cut in his likely lone career appearance at the major.
• And then there’s the story of Lennie Merullo, the East Boston product who played parts of seven seasons for the Cubs in the 1940s before spending the next 50 years as a scout and ambassador for the game. Merullo became a father on Sept. 13, 1942, during a Cubs doubleheader at Braves Field. While he wasn’t in Roxbury for the birth at what was then New England Women’s, he had been up almost all the prior night.
Merullo committed five errors in the two games, including four in one inning of the second to set an ignominious major-league record.
“If they hit me another ball,” Merullo told the Globe in 2010, “I’d have booted that one, too.”
The Chicago papers the next day suggested the son be nicknamed “Boots.” It stuck.
Given its connotation in hockey is much warmer than its baseball one, maybe David and Naomi Krejci ought to throw it in the mix.