Jeff Petry of the Montreal Canadiens will be reunited with his father Tuesday for the first time since Dan Petry tested positive for COVID-19 in December.
Dan, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who was declared free of symptoms after a 10-day quarantine that started Christmas Eve, will be in Las Vegas to watch Jeff and the Canadiens play the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVAS). The best-of-7 series is tied.
“I’m so excited, I can’t wait,” Dan said Monday. “The Canadiens are doing so well right now. I’m so proud of him. It’ll be awesome to see him in person.”
Dan said he can’t get over the eerie crimson color of Jeff’s bloodshot eyes stemming from a blood-vessel issue he sustained in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Second Round against the Winnipeg Jets.
“I know he’s fine and it doesn’t affect his vision,” Dan said. “But he did a Father’s Day video for me. I looked at him and thought, ‘My God, it doesn’t look like him.'”
Jeff said his three sons were scared when they first saw their dad’s eyes until they turned it into a game of superheroes against the villain. Dan said he understands why his grandchildren were rattled at the sight of their father.
“I don’t know how or why it happened, or how long it will be absorbed back into the body, or when it will go away,” Dan said. “I know it will be OK and there are no issues. The hardest part is not that people are making fun of him or stuff like that. It’s just that when your son doesn’t look like your son it’s not right.”
Dan, a member of the 1984 World Series champion Detroit Tigers, played 370 games in 13 seasons from 1979-91. He was 125-104 with a 3.95 ERA for the Tigers, Anaheim Angels, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox. Even though a 162-game baseball season takes a physical toll on players, he said the way NHL players continue to perform despite the beatings their bodies take, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, is impressive.
His son is a prime example of that.
In Game 3 against Winnipeg, Jeff sustained injuries to his fingers when his hand got caught in a camera opening in the glass at Bell Centre in Montreal. He returned to the lineup 10 days later for Game 2 against Vegas wearing a specialized glove and showing no fear. Jeff has four assists in 13 games in the 2021 playoffs.
“When we first spoke after he was hurt it didn’t sound good,” Dan said, “and I’m thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me, to go through all this and get to this point and not being able to play would have just been devastating. I’m just grateful he’s been able to play.”
Dan is also grateful to have come out of his bout with COVID-19 pretty much unscathed. He still wonders how he contracted the virus and thought he’d obeyed the rules. When Dan began feeling sluggish in mid-December, he decided to get tested. He said that when the results from the initial rapid test came back negative he was confident he was in the clear.
“I had been very safe, I followed all the rules,” Dan said. “I knew I didn’t have it.”
Or so he thought.
On Christmas Eve, he pulled into the driveway of Jeff’s Michigan home, where the family had gathered for a holiday party. Jeff would be leaving in the next couple of days for Montreal, where he’d quarantine prior to training camp, so this was one of the last chances they’d have to see each other.
Then the phone rang, and everything changed.
“It’s an unbelievable story,” Dan said. “I had just arrived, and it was the clinic. They told me I had tested positive. So I had to phone the family inside and tell them I couldn’t come in. I went back home and quarantined for 10 days. Thank God my oldest son and wife didn’t get it.
“I’d seen Jeff a couple of days earlier. I haven’t seen him since.”
Dan said he hasn’t seen Jeff play in person since Montreal played at the Florida Panthers on March 7, 2020, the day Florida retired Roberto Luongo’s number. He remembers that trip for another reason.
The Canadiens played at the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 5. During an off day in Tampa, Jeff and teammates Shea Weber, Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher drove 45 minutes to Lakeland, where the Tigers were holding spring training. There they took batting practice against Dan, who is a pre- and postgame TV analyst for the Tigers.
Dan quickly noticed the bond his son had with his three teammates. There were plenty of laughs and taunts, a home run by Price and “a few” by Weber, according to Dan.
It’s the type of chemistry Dan has seen in successful teams before.
“Part of the reason he’s fit in so well in Montreal is his very special relationships with Carey Price and Shea Weber and Brendan Gallagher, as well as several others,” Dan said. “I don’t want to shortchange anybody, but you know it’s a tight-knit group. And I think why they continue to push forward through adversity is their feelings for one another, how they are coming together as a group and trying to maximize everything they can. So I think their success has a lot to do with those bonds that you form as a team, especially with those players that I named.
“It’s going to be so amazing to be on hand and see all of that firsthand.”