By Brian Hedger
5:02 PM CST, January 20, 2014
The Blackhawks are growing up.
They've won the Stanley Cup twice in four seasons, they're again one of the NHL's elite teams--and a handful have become first-time dads recently.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa each welcomed their second children earlier this season, and both are fathers to a pair of daughters. Sheldon Brookbank and his wife are expecting their second child in the spring, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson also is prepping to become a dad in the next few months.
RedEye caught up with Sharp, Hossa, Brookbank and Duncan Keith to get the lowdown on their fatherly experiences.
Daughters Madelyn, 2 years, and Sadie, 3 months
Biggest differences between becoming a dad and doing it second time?
"I was a little more relaxed the second time through, not so nervous about the little things. As a family, we'd been through it once before, so it's like we're veterans now."
Any good stories from your time as a veteran dad?
"Yeah, the first time I showed up at the hospital and spent a lot of hours and was all disheveled and out of whack. The second time I showed up prepared. I had my iPad, I had some pajamas to wear on the bed there. I was relaxing, watching football, and before you know it I had a second daughter. It pays to go through it once before."
You've had success on the ice after each of your daughters was born, right?
"It's funny how it worked out, scoring game-winners right after both of the daughters were born. I don't know why that happened. I just think I'm more relaxed and not really thinking about hockey too much, just enjoying life."
Are you a diaper changer?
"I'm going to say yes, but make sure my wife doesn't see that, because I'm not a diaper changer. I try to be the best dad I can be, but when it comes to changing diapers, that's Mom's department."
What shows is Madelyn into now?
"She's big into 'Doc McStuffins.' She likes the Bubble Guppies. She loves singing, so she sings 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," and she sings her ABCs, the alphabet song, but her favorite song is 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm.'"
Do you ever catch yourself subconsciously humming along with the "Bubble Guppies" theme song or some other a kids' song?
"I've never caught myself doing it, but I'm sure it's in my head because that's all I hear all day long are kids shows on television or on the iPad or my daughters singing them. I try not to think about it too much."
Are there any kids shows that annoy you?
"Yeah, ['Caillou' is'] the worst. That's bad. All of them are the worst, to be honest with you. If you actually watch the show and get into it, they're tolerable, but if they're just background noise, they're all painful."
How about when you were a kid? Were you a "Sesame Street" kid? Who was your favorite character? Do they even have that up there in Canada?
"Oh yeah, c'mon now. Oscar the Grouch."
Sum up what it's meant to become a dad—twice.
"It's pretty life-changing, to be honest with you. I have a lot of friends that have kids and my brother has two kids and they all say the same thing, that it changes your life for the better. And it definitely does. I'm a different person now with the two girls, especially the fact that they're girls and not boys ... that changes everything. Softened me right up."
Is Madelyn talking a lot?
"Our 2-year-old doesn't stop talking. She's talking all the time and she's pretty good at carrying on a conversation, which is pretty impressive at 2 years old."
How are Keith and Seabrook as dads? Both of those guys are dads now ...
"It's a little different picturing it. Seabs is pretty much a dad to Duncs right now. He looks after him, picks him up and takes care of him. He's been looking after him, pretty much, for the last six years, so Seabs has some experience in that situation."
Daughters Mia, 2 years, and Zoja, 2 months
Were the emotions any different with the birth of your second daughter earlier this season than your first?
"Pretty much the same. It's exciting news to my family. It's just a beautiful thing when you hold a newborn and you know mom and the baby are healthy. It's just exciting."
What's it been like being a dad the past couple years?
"It's awesome, especially when the first one is getting older. She understands more things, so we basically can have a little talk with her and she's starting to pick up on some things. It's getting more and more great."
Are you a diaper changer?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Maybe at the beginning I was a little scared to do these things, but once I got over that it was no problem. It's pretty much routine now."
Do you find yourself having to watch more kids television shows?
"Oh definitely. You wake up in the morning and have to put on Disney Channel, the Mickey Mouse things. It's all part of the routine."
What are some of your best memories so far of being a dad?
"The first birthday was nice. We had her birthday at home in Slovakia in early September last year, so that was really cool. We had family coming over from the other side. Mainly it's just being around her. Every day she changes, especially when you go on a long road trip. You come back and notice the big change. She's leaning new words in Slovakian and English, so it's kind of funny to see that."
Does it make those long road trips harder now, being away from your family?
"I think so, yeah. Before you just left and you come home and nothing changed. Now you go and the kids grow so fast, if you go on a two- or three-week road trip, that's going to be a long time away."
Did you get a picture of Mia sitting in the Stanley Cup?
"Yeah, but she's 2 now. So we still put her in there ... but she looks kind of funny."
Son Colton, 6 months
Your son, Colton, arrived during the playoffs last spring, so what's it been like for you being a dad now?
"It's been fun. It's nice to have that quiet time with him at the end of the day, at night. I've definitely been reading him some books. We read a lot more books now. Pretty simple books, but he likes it."
What are you reading to your son?
"That's a good question. I don't even know what I'm reading. I'm just reading it. [Laughs]. I'll pick out a book and read it to him and he likes it. It's just those little times that are fun. He smiles a lot now and laughs, so he's a happy little boy."
Have you gotten any Blackhawks children's books for him yet?
"I haven't seen any of those kicking around, but I should get some. I started showing him the 'One Goal,' book from 2010. I was flipping through the pages and showing him that one. I need to show him some hockey, get him thinking about hockey at a young age, you know? Brainwash him a little bit."
Now that you're a dad, do the longer road trips become harder for you?
"Yeah, I think so. They seem to grow day by day and when you're gone for a couple weeks, he looks a little different when you get back. I think he's a good-looking little boy, so it's funny to see him grow and change each day."
Is he crawling yet?
"No, he's not crawling yet. He's trying. I'll see him flailing away on the ground, trying to get to something. He's pretty good at rolling. He rolls around to get where he wants to go."
Are you a diaper changer?
"I don't know. I try to help out, but I wouldn't say that's my No. 1 duty."
Who gets up with him when he wakes up in the middle of the night?
"He's actually pretty good at sleeping. He's about 6 months [old] now, so it's nice. He doesn't get up until about 7:30, so he's been a good little sleeper."
Does he look more like Mom or Dad?
"I think it's a good mixture of both. Maybe a little bit more like his mom, but there's definitely some of me in him."
Did you get any skates for him yet? Sharp said Bauer sent him some skates for Madelyn.
"They haven't given me anything. He's got a Bauer contract. I don't have a deal like that. I'm not that good, so I can't get a deal."
Are you going to get him some skates soon?
"Oh yeah, I'm going to get him skates. I'll get him a pair eventually. It wouldn't take long to get them and he's not crawling yet, so I don't know about putting skates on him. But he'll get skates as soon as he can start moving around."
Son Bennett, 15 months
"I have one 15-month old son and another one on the way, due at the end of May."
Are you getting a little nervous about having a second one?
"I'm starting to wonder if I made the right decision there. I think it's going to be a lot tougher. We have the one sort of—sort of—under control. Two is going to be a whole new ballgame."
Were you nervous going into the first one?
"I didn't pass out or anything, but I definitely had a moment there, when something happened and the doctor was kind of like, stressed out, and it stressed me out for a minute or two. But everything went fine and I saw the little guy there and I could've have been happier."
Were you in Chicago yet?
"Yeah, we'd pretty much just moved here and had the baby. We had him at Prentice Center downtown."
Are you a diaper changer?
"Oh, I do it all, yep. A lot of poopy diapers and he just will not sit still. He's just squirming around and you're getting poop everywhere and stuff. I think my wife does it more than me, but I definitely do my share."
You're not afraid to get in there and get a little dirty then ...
"I get my hands dirty, yeah. I've got a method down now I've been using for a while."
Do you have a name all picked out for the next one, boy or girl?
"We have a couple picked out, but we're not releasing those yet. We've got to meet the kid before we decide."
What's been the best part about becoming a dad?
"Just playing around with my son. He's just a really happy little guy and he's really excited to see me when I come back from a road trip and it just makes you feel good. I just like hanging out with him, wrestling around with him and stuff like that."
Your kid's walking now. That makes things considerably tougher, doesn't it?
"Yes and no. Now we just have those baby gates that we can just make sure everything's safe and we just let him roam around the main level, so we don't have to be chasing him everywhere. As long as we don't have anything dangerous in there, he can just wheel around. He usually stays around where we are. He'll go for some rips out in the living room and stuff, though."
Has he crawled out of his crib yet?
"Not yet. He's petrified of this Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner we have. He's petrified of it. He'll be walking and walk by it and just stare at it and make a bunch of noises. He'll hide behind it and points at it and kind of lunges at it a bit, and then he'll just, like, cling to you."
Does the Roomba actually work? Is it worth your child's fear?
"You know what, it brings your house to respectability. It has sensors for the hardwood and you can just leave it on. It's not going to be spotless, but it's respectable. Your dog would hate it. I can see why my son hates it, because it's just a thing moving around the house with a mind of its own. And then it just sits on its charging dock and he like freaks out all over."
Does he watch hockey yet or still too young?
"Yeah, he watches it."
Have you gotten him any sticks or pucks yet?
"Oh yeah, we've got the mini sticks going. He's got these little nets and mini sticks."
Is he a lefty or righty?
"He switches still. He hasn't chosen one yet. I'll just let him pick one, whatever hand feels good."
Does he have a Hawks jersey?
"Yep, he's got a little Brookbank jersey. He's got some hockey gloves, those little mini gloves. They're a little big for him still. No skates yet, though. We're going to wait a bit. I think I started skating when I was 4."
Who had most influence on choosing your son's name?
"I actually came up with it, but then my wife really wanted it. I didn't have to sell it really. I was a little skeptical at first about the double B, 'Bennett Brookbank,' but we both just agreed on it. We both liked it and this one ultrasound looked like her dad, whose name is 'Ben,' and it was just funny how much the silhouette looked like her dad. We were laughing about it and calling him, 'Little Bennie Boy,' in the womb. So I came up with the name Bennett and we were like, 'Yeah, that works.'"
Does your brother Wade [another professional hockey player] have kids?
"Yeah he has two girls and one boy, who's six months older than Bennett. His daughters are 6 and 3, I think. And they're actually due again the same week as us."
So, there could be some good family squabbles at dinners and get-togethers?
"We'll have a couple defense pairings there, who knows?"
Brian Hedger is a RedEye special contributor. @brianhedgerWant more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.
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