DENVER — When Ryan Hartman went to Michigan at age 16 to play with the U.S. National Development Team, his father Craig moved the whole family there, too. Craig wanted Ryan to stay close with his brother, who's several years younger.
The move was worthwhile but not easy. Craig traveled back and forth to Chicago for his work, and the stay in Michigan, originally expected to be two years, turned into four when Ryan played for the Plymouth Whalers.
Now when the Hartmans want to see Ryan, whether it was in Rockford last season or in Chicago this season, it's less than an hour away from their West Dundee home.
"Either transition's been great because I've been seeing him a lot, taking care of his dog when he's on the road," Craig said. "It's pretty cool when he comes and sees his little brother play hockey. It's pretty amazing to have him home. If he's in any other city, he'd be gone. It's special to have him here."
For many of the fathers currently on the Blackhawks' dads trip, this excursion is one of maybe a handful of times they'll get to see their sons play in a season. But for Craig Hartman and Rick Hinostroza, Vinnie Hinostroza's dad, their sons play for the hometown team. They get to see them at least half of the season. And for both of them, it's an incredible feeling.
"It's pretty unbelievable to be able to just drive, depending on how traffic is, it could take us a little over an hour to get there. But just to be able to be home in 35 minutes and we get to sit and talk to him after a game or go out to dinner, things like that," Rick Hinostroza said. "It's really nice, and we'll take it as long as we can."
Craig and Rick are also enjoying their first dads trip, which began in Denver and now goes to Boston. Ryan Hartman said it's been a great experience for him and his father.
"It's my first year here and (it's a chance) for him to be able to see what we go through on the road, so he has a better idea of what I'm doing when I'm gone all the time. I'm sure it's good for him to be here and see that," Hartman said. "And just being on the road with him, it's a cool experience. I'm glad to have him here."
Vinnie Hinostroza said this was the first hockey trip he'd been on with his dad since his midget hockey days.
"It's so special to bring him along, where he used to bring me and pay for the hotels and everything. It's nice he gets to enjoy this," Hinostroza said. "It's special for us to have them here. They sacrifice so much for us growing up, taking us on hockey trips."
Rick Hinostroza got his first taste of how his son travels on this trip. The elder Hinostroza was impressed, from the charter jet to the hospitality that wasn't the usual commercial-flight can of soda and bag of pretzels.
"The attendants going back and forth, asking if I wanted something to eat and here you have this list, a choice of all this stuff. I'm used to the attendant coming around with the cart and you get what you get when you get it," he said. "To be exposed to that and see just how the organization treats the families and players, it's pretty neat. It's really surreal."
But as important as playing in hometown Chicago is for Hartman and Hinostroza's parents, it means so much to the players as well.
"It's a blessing, really, having them so close," said Ryan, who sees his younger brother play hockey whenever he can. "It's nice. You don't have to plan a trip for them to come, and you don't have to be waiting for the next time you're going to see them. Sometimes there are off days when I go home and relax with them. It's definitely nice to have."
The latest Blackhawks' dads trip will end this weekend. Most of the fathers will head back to their respective homes, most of which are a good distance from Chicago. For the Hartmans and Hinostrozas, the return to Chicago means being back home and continuing to live the dream of watching their sons play here.
"I've gotten to meet a lot of fathers and having a nice time," Craig Hartman said. "It's fantastic. Growing up in the city — I was born probably about 15 blocks from the UC — being part of this and having my kid play with the Blackhawks, it's crazy."