Like most of the Capitals who are rooming with their fathers during the team’s annual Dads’ trip, T.J. Oshie shares an unbreakable bond with his father, Tim.
The two have shared a journey of personal growth that has drawn them closer with each passing year.
“He’s meant the world to me,” Oshie said. “My family is very, very, very close. From my immediate family to cousins, everyone is in the same boat. We spend a lot of time together.
“It was a long trip for him to come from Seattle, so for him to come on this trip means the world to him and it definitely means the world to me, too.”
About three years ago, at the age of 48, Tim Oshie was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, a gradual but progressive form of dementia that normally begins with short-term memory loss. According to Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 5 percent of the 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s are diagnosed under the age of 65.
“He’s doing good,” Oshie said. “He’s in great spirits. A couple of the guys have already come up to me and said how much of a hoot he is.”
The first of Tim and Tina Oshie’s three children together, T.J. grew up in Everett, Wash., where he spent much of the first 15 years of his life being coached by his father in football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf.
“I just call him coach,” Oshie said. “I don’t call him dad.”
In 2002, two years after his parents separated, Oshie, who was 15 at the time, moved with his father to Tim Oshie’s hometown of Warroad, Minn., living with their cousin, Henry Boucha, a former NHL forward who played 247 games for the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota North Stars, Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies.
It was in Warroad that T.J. Oshie learned more about his family’s Native American heritage as members of Ojibwe Nation.
“We take a lot of pride in that and my dad will be the first to tell you that,” Oshie said. “We respect the native way. We respect the land. It’s just amazing how much pride my family takes from our heritage and from where we come from.”
Because he grew up in Washington, Oshie said he did not experience his first pow wow until he was 15.
“What was cool about my first one was that it started to rain and it rained hard,” Oshie recalled. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but for two hours straight they did a rain dance and a song, which I thought was pretty amazing. And eventually, it stopped raining and the food came out. It was a pretty cool first experience.”
After their meal, Oshie said the tribal leaders, including a medicine man, gathered in his “Uncle Henry’s” living room for a naming ceremony for his himself, his father, his younger brother, Taylor, and his younger sister, Tawni.
“We sat on the floor and smoked some tobacco out of a peace pipe,” Oshie said with a smile. “I was coughing. We sang a song for each of us, sat silent for a while, and then we were named.”
T.J. was given the name “Keeway Gaaboo,” which translates to “Coming Home.”
His father, Tim, was given a name that translates to “Falling From The Sky” and his brother, Taylor, was named “Falling From The Sky Like An Eagle.” Tawni, who has a learning disability, was given a name so spiritual that it does not translate to English.
“She’s kind of the life of the family,” Oshie said with a laugh.
Now a father himself, Oshie said he would like his 21-month-old daughter, Lyla Grace, to experience her own first pow wow.
“I do regret not learning more than I know, but I still am very proud of where I come from,” Oshie said. “At some point she will (be named). That’s something that will be very important to me and very important to my dad, especially.
“I want her to be old enough, but with my dad’s condition we might do it sooner rather than later.”
For now, Oshie said he is cherishing every moment he spends with his father, now 51, and is excited for him to get to know his new teammates’ fathers.
“You see some of the dads who were here together last year and it seems they already have a good relationship,” Oshie said. “You see them joking around. It’s good for my dad to come to meet the guys and for them to meet him. I’m so happy we get to do this. It’s great to have him here.”
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