Nasreddine's absence commendable
By Joe Starkey
Friday, February 16, 2007
Alain Nasreddine isn't the most prominent Penguins player.
He's not insignificant, either, which makes his absence from tonight's game at New Jersey noteworthy.
Nasreddine, who has the best plus-minus rating (plus-12) among the team's defensemen, will miss a second consecutive game in order to be with his wife and newborn son.
Alec Nasreddine was born at 7:33 a.m. Wednesday. He and his mother, Josiane, are doing fine, which prompts the question:
Why won't Dad be in the lineup tonight for a big game against the division-leading Devils?
? Because Dad has his priorities straight.
? Because he works for good people.
? Because the Penguins can afford to play without him.
If this were Sidney Crosby, it would be a mega-story, perhaps spawning an ESPN "Outside the Lines" segment titled, How soon should an athlete play after his wife gives birth?
That also would put Penguins coach Michel Therrien in an awkward position, though Therrien tends to put family first.
When the Penguins played in Phoenix earlier this season, Therrien started backup goaltender Jocelyn Thibault and spare winger Ronald Petrovicky because their fathers were at the game.
Therrien told Nasreddine he wouldn't be in the lineup Wednesday against Chicago and advised him to stay home when the Penguins left for New Jersey after practice Thursday.
"I think family is the most important thing," Therrien said. "I know Naz, it's his first child, and in the last week you could see it was a little bit of a distraction. That's normal. He's a human being before he's a hockey player. I wanted to make sure he spent time with his wife and his new boy."
Plus, Therrien said, "We're in a position to do that, because we have seven defensemen."
Nasreddine's teammates are thrilled for him. Many played with him in Wilkes-Barre, where he was their captain under Therrien. They love the guy.
Today, Nasreddine will demonstrate his leadership in a different way. Wife and son will be released from the hospital this morning, "and I want to be there for them," he said.
He practiced yesterday and hardly looked like a man conflicted. His smile was wider than a goal crease.
Josiane was there for every minute of Nasreddine's 12-team tour of professional hockey (the two were married in October after dating for 10 years). He'd played only 24 NHL games before the Penguins recalled him Dec. 6.
Not that he minded the minors.
"It's not like you're working 8 to 5," he said. "I was playing hockey and making decent money."
When his wife first felt labor pains Tuesday night, Nasreddine admits, he wondered if the delivery time might conveniently allow him to play Wednesday.
Hey, the man is 31 years old, and this is the first time he's earned a regular NHL paycheck (his salary is $450,000).
The two went to the hospital around 6 p.m. but were sent home. It was a false alarm - an offside, if you will.
Two hours later, reality set in.
"She said, 'I can't handle this anymore,' " Nasreddine said. "Once she started contractions, everything else just went away. I was just thinking about her, the baby, being a dad on Valentine's Day, and that this was for real."
What a season for Nasreddine. He scored his first NHL goal -- against Montreal, his hometown team -- established himself as a regular on the NHL's hottest club, was told he could move from a hotel to an apartment (he's renting downtown) and became a father.
"You know what," he said, "2007 has started real strong."