NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Mehrdad Zibanejad, the father of Rangers No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad, cannot fathom the fact that his son has played in more than 700 NHL games.
The elder Zibanejad didn’t even know about hockey when he was raising Mika in Stockholm, Sweden. He was a volleyball and a soccer guy, having competed for Iran’s and Sweden’s national volleyball teams, as well as at a high level for soccer. Mika’s older half-brother, Monir Kalgoum, however, was a center who went on to play professionally for several lower-tier European hockey leagues. Monir is the one who got Mika into hockey.
“I remember when he was a kid I started to let him play tennis, he had his own coach,” Mehrdad said. “And one day he said, ‘Please tell my dad, I don’t want to play with that old man all the time. I want to go play hockey.’ Growing up, every time they picked up his brother or went to play the game, he watched and he loved it. Just running between the seats and playing the game. So that’s [when I said], ‘I give up.’”
Mehrdad Zibanejad is one of several dads of Rangers players accompanying their sons on the fathers’ trip this weekend. They have enjoyed many activities and quality time with their sons as part of the first parents’ event since before the coronavirus pandemic.
After a few of them took an afternoon stroll around Nashville to see all the rowdy city has to offer, the group went to Top Golf on Friday to cap the Rangers’ day off. Mehrdad had been to Nashville several times before because he used to live in Atlanta, so it was an easy trip to come and see Mika play throughout his years playing in Ottawa and New York.
Mehrdad said he moved to the United States because Mika was drafted into the NHL by the Senators in 2011.
“Tried to be close and support him,” said Mehrdad, who had the honor of reading the lineup card before the game Thursday night in Detroit, which was Mika’s 700th game. “Not tell him what he has to do, but just know that I am there and [if] this is happening, that I’ll try and help you.”
There are 17 dads on the trip, but Barclay Goodrow’s father, John, is the veteran of the group. He has been a part of five fathers’ trips over his son’s 10 seasons in the NHL. After participating in four during Barclay’s time with the Sharks, John is experiencing his first with the Rangers.
The family time on the road has the team in good spirits, which was seemingly what they needed after three tough losses at home at the beginning of this month.
“It’s great to spend time with the players, obviously our sons, meet the dads,” John Goodrow said. “To have a win in such impressive fashion in Detroit made it a fantastic trip to Nashville. It’s fun, it brings back a lot of memories of the minor hockey days where you go to tournaments and the dads hang out, drink coffee and watch the boys on the ice.”