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Stafford settles into new role as dad

by Naila Jinnah || AHL On The Beat Archive   

On Feb. 10, Hamilton Bulldogs defenseman Garrett Stafford and his wife Lynne welcomed a new addition to their family, baby boy Julian.

Being a new dad is tough in the best of situations, but for the Staffords, the sleepless nights are but one new reality in a series of changes in the past few months.

After all, it can’t be easy to get traded to a new city in a new country when your wife is seven months pregnant with your first child.

“I wanted a change and I got it,” said the former Portland Pirate, who was part of the deal that sent Petteri Nokelainen from the Phoenix Coyotes to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Brock Trotter and a seventh-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

“The hard part about it was Lynne being seven months pregnant. She was still living in Detroit at the time and working for the Red Wings (as an athletic therapist),” he said.

Although trades are par for the course when it comes to professional sports, figuring out the logistics of finding a good family home and an obstetrician made it tougher for Stafford this time around.

And then there are the three-in-three weekends that are typical of life in the AHL.

“For me, it’s tough, but for her, it’s way harder,” said Stafford. “We don’t have any family around here, so it’s tough knowing that she’s alone with nobody to take care of her.”

Stafford ended up missing four games while waiting for his wife to give birth, staying at home while the Bulldogs traveled to Lake Erie and Grand Rapids. Though the doctors thought she was going to have the baby early, in the end, she was 11 days late.

“The baby didn’t come so we were kinda freaking out,” Stafford said of playing the waiting game. “I obviously didn’t want to miss any games; I was playing very well. We lost a few of those too, so it’s just frustrating.

“Then for her to finally go into labor and it’s a 46-hour labor…,” added Stafford. “It was just crazy in the end, but it worked out, and now we have a beautiful baby boy, and we’ve just fallen in love.”

Stafford is not looking forward to the 25-day road trip coming up for the Bulldogs in March, but, as he says, “there’s no way around it.”

“Hopefully some friends and family can come out,” he said, “but the most important thing is that she’s supported while I’m gone. It’s going to be hard.”

Stafford has found some comfort in discussing his experiences as a new father with teammates Brian Willsie and Robert Mayer.

“I’ve been talking to Willsie a lot,” said Stafford. “He’s got three boys, so he’s got a lot of information.

“He’s been telling me little tips about what his wife went through and what I should expect,” he added. “And Luc Leblanc, the trainer, has been really great. He’s really been helping me with everything.”

As for hockey dreams for his little one, Stafford says he will support his son in anything he chooses to do.

But…

“I’d rather he play golf or tennis, personally. You can play forever.”