Minor-league hockey player Pierre-Cedric Labrie kept his phone close to him on Saturday, December 30, because his girlfriend was ready to deliver their first child.
What he didn’t expect was the turn of events that helped him begin the new chapter of his life.
Labrie, who plays for the Milwaukee Admirals, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Nashville Predators, was on the team bus heading to Grand Rapids, Michigan, December 30. That’s when girlfriend Jana Pieuze-Roy, daughter of NHL legend Patrick Roy, gave him the first update.
“She texted me. In the bus. Half way,” Labrie, known as P.C., told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
It wasn’t labor though. Jana had cramps. No need to worry. Still, Labrie thought for a moment of stopping the bus and finding a way back to Milwaukee. But, he chose to take his chances.
A call at 2 a.m., Sunday, had nothing to do with cramps. It was game on. Not hockey. Labor. Jana’s water broke. However, Labrie was 280 miles away, resting up to play the Detroit Red Wings’ top minor-league club, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
A chance to scoot back home had long passed. The only quick way out of Grand Rapids to anywhere near Milwaukee was a 6:30 a.m. flight to Chicago, leaving him with an almost two-hour drive from there. And it was December 31. The odds of booking a car were already slim, and it was certainly not a good bet in a snowstorm.
That’s when Labrie decided to make a call of his own. It wasn’t to Jana though. She was being tended to by her mother. He turned to a teammate, forward Mark Zengerle, who was asleep in his hotel room.
“I was like, ‘Zenger, you played in GR (Grand Rapids) a couple years ago,'” Labrie said. “‘Do you know anybody that would let me borrow a car?'”
That’s when Grand Rapids goaltender Tom McCollum became part of the story. He was on the Griffins’ bus watching a movie when Zengerle pinged his phone. Even though he never met Labrie, McCollum played against him and knew the 12-year veteran was a stand-up guy. So, he didn’t hesitate to offer his Ford F-150 so Labrie could get to Jana. But, the Grand Rapids bus was still about two hours away.
The arrangements then all but made themselves.
As it turned out, McCollum lives nearly across the street from the Admirals’ hotel, and his girlfriend was home to give Labrie access to the truck.
On the road by 3 a.m., in whiteout conditions, Labrie arrived at the hospital at 6:15 and was by Jana’s side just in time to welcome their son, Lionel.
“I was there for only 40 minutes–the last, final pushes,” he said.
With Lionel and Jana resting, there was the matter of returning McCollum’s truck. That, too, took care of itself. Grand Rapids played the Admirals in Milwaukee three days later.
After formally meeting McCollum for the first time after the Griffins beat the Admirals 4-2 on January 3, Labrie tossed the goalie his keys and McCollum followed his team back to Grand Rapids.
Labrie offered to pay for use of the truck in addition to filling it up with gas, but McCollum refused the offer. Instead, P.C. had the truck washed.
“I was happy to be able to facilitate the situation,” McCollum said. “I was more than thrilled when he texted me that he made it in time.”
Labrie, 31, went undrafted out of junior hockey and joined the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose in 2007. He made his NHL debut in 2012 with the Tampa Bay Lightning and remained with the organization until to 2014 before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks and spending three seasons with the Rockford IceHogs. He signed with Nashville ahead of the 2017-18 season.
McCollum, 28, was drafted by the Red Wings in 2008. He’s also had a stint with the Calgary Flames organization that saw him play for two other AHL teams before a trade sent him back to Grand Rapids the last offseason.
Baby Lionel weighed 5 pounds, 15 ounces.