Following the Flames: Lomberg’s proud parents enjoy epic road-trip

Their initial reaction was that this exciting news might actually save them some hours on the highway, some tread on their truck tires.

Trevor and Lori Lomberg embarked on this epic road-trip in mid-November, pointed west from their home in Richmond Hill, Ont., and planning to visit a few relatives as they cruised across Canada before eventually turning south toward Stockton, Calif., where their son Ryan was toiling for the Calgary Flames’ farm club.

“We’d just visited my nephew in Jasper and we were probably about three hours into B.C., and that’s when Ryan called and told us he had been called up,” Lori said. “So Trevor put it in the GPS and said, ‘Perfect, only eight hours back to Calgary. No problem.’

“And that’s when Ryan said, ‘No, no, no … I’m on my way to Vegas.’ ”

Well then, so were they.

“So we hit that into the GPS, and it was 24 hours,” Lori said. “I said, ‘Well, Trev, what do you think?’ We actually drove through the night that night.”

There was not much agonizing about whether or not to re-route.

“The whole idea of the trip was to visit with Ryan,” Trevor reasoned. “Over Christmas, we only get maybe a day-and-a-half with him because of their schedule, so we really wanted to spend some time with him. We figured that would be our chance.

“It didn’t really matter to us where he was. It was just, ‘If we can make it work, we’ll make it work.’ The bonus part was he got called up. So it was just, ‘Good news. Actually, great news. No problem, we’ll meet you wherever you are.’ ”

Currently with a seat on the Flames’ charter flights, Ryan has covered a lot of distance since his Nov. 23 promotion from the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat.

Not wanting to miss any reasonable opportunity to catch up with their boy and undeterred by the reality that the feisty forward is never a sure-thing to be in the lineup, Trevor and Lori have, too.

Columbus, where the Flames continued their recent roll in hang-on-to-your-butts fashion with Tuesday’s 9-6 win over the Blue Jackets, was the final stop on this great adventure.

It’s impossible to quantify the love, support and pride of hockey parents, but here is one measure — when Mr. and Mrs. Lomberg rolled Wednesday into their garage in Richmond Hill, part of the Greater Toronto Area, their trip odometer had clicked upwards of 13,000 km.

Any regrets?

Maybe one, back when they packed their suitcases three weeks ago.

“We thought we were going to Stockton,” Trevor groaned. “So we left our Calgary shirts at home.”

Even without Flaming C apparel, nobody could question their commitment to the Pacific Division-leading squad … and to their son.

From Sin City, Lomberg’s folks followed the team to Glendale, Ariz.

When the skating stars returned to the Saddledome for a two-game homestand, they started to pick their way through the southern states.

New Mexico.

Texas.

Oklahoma.

Arkansas.

They were in Memphis, Tenn., as the weekend arrived. And how did they spend their Friday night in a city with a renowned live-music scene?

In a hotel room, of course, glued to coverage of the Flames’ home victory over the Los Angeles Kings.

“We went to Graceland during the day, did the whole Elvis visit,” Lori said. “Then we watched the game that night. We streamed it. It was a good game.”

Especially for the rambunctious whipper-snapper in No. 56 in red.

A healthy scratch for the first three games after his recall, Ryan was plugged into the lineup that evening and racked up a team-high six hits.

Flames bench boss Bill Peters raved about his work afterward, telling reporters: “He’s got that great energy. He’s infectious.”

That performance — and praise — left little doubt that the 23-year-old winger had extended his stay with the big club.

So …

Yeah, you guessed it.

Trevor and Lori were bound for Chicago.

And then on to Columbus.

All told, they cheered on the Flames in four different rinks, four different time-zones, even though their boy was scratched for three of those showdowns.

Between practices and games, video sessions and other team get-togethers, they squeezed in some family meals and hotel hangouts.

“It’s so cool to have them with me,” said Ryan, who suited up in the Windy City but was an odd-man-out again in Ohio. “They’re equally, if not more, responsible for me being here. So every second that I’m here and they’re here with me, it’s an opportunity for them to kind of take it in, as well, and see what a day in the life is like.

“Because I can’t even imagine the sacrifices and the things they’ve done for me to be able to put me in the position I am today. As I get a little older, I appreciate it more and more. But I don’t think I’ll have a true understanding until I have kids of my own of what they’ve sacrificed and given up for me. So it means the world for them to be able to be here and see it and experience it with me.”

Alas, after Tuesday’s throwback thriller at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, it was time for Trevor, Lori and Mia to head home.

Hang on, we didn’t mention Mia?

Calgary Flames forward Ryan Lomberg with his dog, Mia. (Supplied photo)

 

The Lombergs have been travelling with another beloved family member — a Leonberger dog weighing nearly as much as Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau. (And, truth be told, not much less than Ryan, listed at 5-foot-9 and 187 lb.)

“Yeah, you heard right — 150 pounds. One, five, zero,” Lori said of Mia, repeating herself for a dumbfounded reporter. “So getting hotels along the way has been a bit challenging. A lot of hotels take small dogs only, maybe 50 pounds or less. And there is no sneaking her into the room.”

If Ryan’s four-legged friend was able to go undetected, she might have tried to tip-toe onto Tuesday’s late-night flight back to Calgary.

The Flames return to action Thursday, hosting the Minnesota Wild at the Saddledome (7 p.m., Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

“(Mia) basically does backflips when she sees Ryan,” Trevor said. “Wherever he sits, she’ll go sit right next to him or lay on top of him.”

Lori chimes in: “I think it was the other night in Chicago, I said, ‘Ryan is coming soon.’ And she stood by the hotel-room door and waited. It was funny. She just loves to see him.”

They all do.

Even if Trevor and Lori realize there is always a chance their sparkplug son — more smash than sizzle, more dung-disturber than dipsy-doodler — will be suddenly sparring with the toughest hombre in the opposing sweater.

Originally signed to a minor-league deal as an undrafted free agent, this is Ryan’s fourth winter in the Flames organization.

He has totalled 159 appearances in the AHL, 55 in the ECHL and so far has nine nights of NHL experience, two of ’em this season. His career counter at the highest level shows one assist, six shots on net, 19 hits and three fights — all as the underdog.

“I’m sure my mom would like me to play a more skilled game, but the reality of it is that’s not what got me here,” Ryan said. “Maybe it helped me get here, but it’s not what is going to keep me here.”

Mom is accustomed to it by now.

“Since he was a little kid, he’s always been that one to stick up for everybody on his team,” Lori said. “But I love that he has such a big heart. I think anywhere he has gone, all of the different teams he has been on, he always talks about his team. And when other parents talk to us about him, they’ll say, ‘Oh, my kid loves your kid.’ It’s nice to know that he’s that guy that will stick up for somebody. Yeah, some days I wish he had a little more height and a little more common sense sometimes … ”

Mr. and Mrs. both laugh.

“But that’s who he is,” Lori continued. “Who could tell him anything different now? He’s almost 24. He’s always been like that. It’s not like he changed just to prove something. You talk to coaches from when he was 12, it was that same tenacious behaviour on the ice. He was always, ‘What do you need coach? I’ll do it.’ That’s been his driving force. When the game gets notched up a level, that’s when the true Ryan comes out. He loves the more important games, the more physical games.”

Added Trevor: “He loves when the fans are going nuts.”

Some folks might read the details of their travel itinerary over the past few weeks and think the Lombergs must be nuts.

Every proud parent, though, will understand.

The Flames just wrapped their Dad’s Trip, and each of those papas — Guy Gaudreau, Paul Giordano, John Monahan, etc., etc. — and their better-halves have logged countless hours on the blacktop between rinks. (If they ever need a recommendation for a Doggy Daycare near The Strip in Las Vegas or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the Lombergs would be a good resource.)

“We didn’t mind driving around,” Trevor insisted. “And to watch him in an NHL rink, it’s just … awesome. We’re glad he has actually achieved his dream. As any parent would, we told him, ‘Chase your dreams.’ He chased them and worked really, really, really hard. So we’re really happy for him.

“And we actually got to spend a lot of time with him. So it worked out great.”

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/WesGilbertson

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