3-on-3- Three 'Clones and the Influence of their Fathers
After practice recently, the locker room is dim as only two soft box lights sit in the corner, aimed toward the lockers where Dominic Zombo, Brock Beukeboom and Justin Vaive sit. They are patiently waiting for their time in the hot seat as the cameras and recorders are being set up for the interview. The topic today? Growing up with dads who played in the NHL for a collective 42 seasons.
Rick Zombo first saw success during his years at the University of North Dakota when during the 1981 season, his team won the 1982 NCAA National Championship. This success continued as he was drafted in 1981 by the Detroit Red Wings and would eventually play 8 seasons with them before being traded to the St. Louis Blues, and four seasons later, would be traded to the Boston Bruins. After his playing career, he spent eight seasons coaching at various levels. Most notably in his coaching career, his time at Lindenwood saw a lot of success as in 2010, the team won their third consecutive CSCHL Championship and in the 2011-12 season, the team went undefeated in the CSCHL Conference regular season.
Rick Vaive got his first taste of professional success in 1979 when he was drafted to the Vancouver Canucks where he played 47 games before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs with whom he would play 8 seasons. During his time on the Leafs, he recorded a large milestone of scoring more than 50 goals in one season, an accomplishment that no one else had achieved in organizational history. He achieved this three seasons in a row, tallying 54 goals in the 1981-82 season, 51 goals in 82-83, and 52 in 83-84.
Rick’s coaching career also saw a lot of success as he was the Head Coach for the South Carolina Stingrays from 1993-1998. While coaching there, he earned two divisional titles, a conference championship title, and became the first coach in ECHL history to earn both the Brabham Cup and Kelly Cup in the same season.
Jeff Beukeboom was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1983 and spent seven seasons playing with them, collecting three Stanley Cup rings before being traded to the New York Rangers during the 1991-92 season. He would eventually earn a fourth Stanley Cup in 1994 which would be the team’s first in 54 years. Jeff’s coaching career lasted over 10 seasons, most recently acting as the Assistant Coach for the New York Rangers during the 2016-17 season.
Up first is Brock. When he sits down, he asks for a general rundown of the questions and begins to think about what he might say. We keep it simple starting off, asking about what his first memories are from watching his dad play and coach. When his dad won his final Stanley Cup ring, he was only two but one fond memory he has was being able to attend practice on Saturday mornings. “When he was with the Rangers, I remember on Saturdays, I’d try to go to the rink with him just because hockey is kind of in my blood. I was only one of a few kids who were able to go so it kind of made me feel like I was part of the team.”
All that time around practices meant a lot to Brock and certainly left him itching to get out there himself. “I think I was 4 years old when I started skating. I didn’t start playing competitive in hockey until I moved to Canada when I was 8 years old but when I was in New York, it was just every Saturday with the same group of kids, we would just play for an hour and then that would be it.”
For Justin, add in being able to skate on professional ice and his time learning to skate was similarly spent to kids today. “I learned to skate probably right around 3 or 4. After games, I remember we used to go and he would bring me and brother out there with the chairs and let us push them around and kind of learn on our own until we slowly graduated to no chair. And then after games (when he was coaching), we’d be out there scooting around while he was working on video and stuff.”
Despite being around the rink so much, Justin mentioned how the idea of playing professional hockey didn’t occur to him until he was a teenager playing in Canada. “Growing up in South Carolina, hockey was a pipe dream. Travel hockey had just started when I got there and there was only one team in the whole state so it wasn’t really a thing until I moved up to Canada when I was already in my teens. I started to play competitive up there and realized that I was playing at my highest level and being successful. From there, it started to become a reality but at the same time, if you ask my dad, he would have preferred I play baseball.”
Being able to learn the game from someone you think so highly of was something all three players appreciated. Dominic especially appreciated the car rides home after games. “A lot of things I remember from growing up were the car rides home after a game and just the hockey talk. They weren’t always great but he told it how it was and I liked that part of it. I looked up to him so much because growing up, you want to be like your dad because he’s your hero and just looking back, I relished those talks. They meant a lot to me and helped me learn the game and learn from him.”
What kind of advice were they given? Brock recalls a lot of Jeff’s advice being useful both in hockey and for life outside of the game. “I think the best piece of advice my dad has told me is just to be thankful to wake up every morning because you don’t know what’s going to happen. I think he kind of meant it as when you think things are going tough, (be thankful for) just waking up the next day and being able to live that next day. I think that’s huge advice because it goes farther than hockey. It’s just about life in general.”
When asked about how his dad’s experience influenced how he sees and plays the game, Dominic felt that it stems from basic life lessons. “Well we are pretty different players. I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t get the height or maybe the size at all but just a lot of things about the game. For example, I can call him after a game and since he’s been around the game so much, he can already know how I played and it’s just the little things. The few things you can control are your effort and attitude and it’s those things I try to focus on. I may not always be the best player on the ice but as long as I’m out there working as hard as I can and have a good attitude, it’s going to go a long way.”
Similar to his dad, Dominic first saw success during his time in college at the University of Nebraska-Omaha when during his Senior year, the team made it to the Frozen Four. “That was probably the biggest moment in my career because it was my last year at school, I was a Senior Captain and we had a great group of guys who made a lot out of nothing. We had 12 Freshmen and nobody had counted us in but we found a way to do it. It obviously didn’t work out how we hoped but it was an unbelievable group and I still feel very fortunate to have done it with those guys.”
Justin’s first taste of professional success was when he was drafted in 2007 by the Anaheim Ducks. While most players have fond memories from inside the arena, his Draft Day story actually happened 2 hours South. “My dad said he will regret this until the day he dies. We went on a college visit to Miami the weekend of the draft which was in Columbus, and I didn’t want to get his hopes up but he had a feeling that I was going to get drafted because he had heard some rumblings.” Despite the feeling that it was possible, they stayed in Oxford for the night. “We decided to stay at Miami that night to see some more of the school and meet more of the coaching staff and sure enough, later that night I got a call right after dinner that I had been drafted.”
Thinking back to themselves as Juniors players, Justin, Dominic and Brock all felt that continued success in professional hockey has a lot to do with attitude. When asked for advice he would give to younger players, Brock said, “The biggest thing is work hard and be a good teammate but mostly, just be a good person. It goes back to the fact that I’ve been on 4 teams this year and every team I’ve been on, there hasn’t been one bad apple in the dressing room. I think that’s starting to become a common trend in hockey with coaches, GMs and what not are doing their homework on players. You can have the most skilled guy in the world but he might have a bad attitude and coaches are starting to realize that the best recipe for having a good team is having good people.”
Finally, we asked what it meant to them to be able to continue their dads’ history of playing professional hockey. Justin summed it up by saying, “It’s definitely a special thing I get to share with my dad. It’s like a lot of people who go into the same career as their father and they enjoy it because it gives them something in common by branching you together in that way. Pro sports is obviously a little more escalated than whatever the other profession is just because there’s a lot more spectators and media coverage but it’s definitely cool because I feel like it gives us something in common that a lot of people don’t get to share with their dad. It’s something that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”
By: Miranda Lally
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