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With trade to Detroit, the Petry family can actually plan for the school year
On the Red Wings newest defenseman and remember the human side of sports.
DETROIT — In the immediate aftermath introductory press conferences are often nothing burgers.
From a content or story perspective, it’s a group of reporters hearing the same thing, stealing each other’s ideas, and the best quotes have already been Tweeted (or threaded…) or blasted out on video before you even have the chance to write something out.
But from a long-term story-telling perspective, they can be incredibly valuable. It starts to create the seeds of a reporter-athlete relationship, and some of the initial barriers to finding the human within can be torn down.
That’s why I went to Jeff Petry’s introductory presser on Wednesday. Not because I’ll come away with some great original story or ground-breaking hockey analysis — things that have either been already written or done by others ad nauseam — but because I’d get to know the human a bit more.
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I actually have a little bit of history with Petry, we both were in high school in the metro Detroit area around the same time. He’s only a couple years older than me, and if I remember correctly at some point when he was home for the summer while playing in the USHL or at Michigan State, he likely scored a goal (or many) against me at a Friday night drop-in skate.
I’ve also talked to Dan Petry, his dad and now a Detroit Tigers broadcaster, before for a story I did at a publication I used to work at.
But Wednesday was the first chance for me to get to know Petry as a dad, and being the dad of a soon-to-be kindergartener myself, better appreciate some of the difficult limbo Jeff and Julie Petry dealt with as parents of four young kids since the Aug. 9 trade between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.
While Canadiens GM Kent Hughes was open with Petry about a trade, and he asked for the defenders list of priority destinations, the Petry family had know idea where’d they’d be to start the school year.
If you have school-aged kids, you know it’s already a hectic time. Now imagine the possibility of moving at the equivalent of a dart throw on the map (Dallas for example, reportedly kicked tires on a deal for Petry). Thoughts start to dance in your head to about the possibility of dad moving and the family staying behind, at least for a little bit, something the Petry family dealt with in 2021 in Montreal — it isn’t fun.
“It was stressful,” Petry said. “This process of kind of when it started in Pittsburgh, to ending yesterday, is probably about three weeks. So it’s been a long three weeks … all situations went through our minds, so it was a big relief getting call to know I was gonna be here, and it makes everything a lot easier.”
From an on-ice hockey perspective, I like the deal by Detroit. They moved on from an asset they hadn’t even qualified in Gustav Lindstrom and only parted with a fourth-round pick to improve their defensive depth. With the double-salary retention, Petry is playing in Detroit on a cap hit that is reflective of his value.
But more importantly, from a human perspective, it’s a smoother and simpler time for the Petry kids. Mom and dad can actually register them for school, they can go to kindergarten orientations and meet the teacher events, and best of all they don’t have to worry about a potential situation where Dad is living on the other side of the country.
These human implications, how the Petry family handles the limbo of a trade, often get lost in the immediate aftermath of a trade. Sure, we all want soundbites about what it means for Petry to play for the team he grew up rooting for. We want to know if he spoke to Derek Lalonde yet and we want to hear his thoughts on how he’ll fit into the Detroit rebuild.
Those stories are important, but they aren’t the reason many of us watch sports. We watch sports to be entertained and to connect with other humans. Human stories make sports worthwhile. “Sports writers,” like myself, are really just humans telling stories about other humans that happen to be very good at sports.
And that’s why I went to Jeff Petry’s introductory press conference. Not to break down whether his contract is good or bad, or whether the Red Wings are making a mistake building too many roadblocks for Simon Edvinsson. It was to hear the human side of the deal, remind myself of that, hopefully have something to better connect Petry to readers in the future.