NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mehrdad Zibanejad, the father of Rangers No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad, cannot ignore the fact that his son has played in more than 700 NHL games.
Elder Zibanejad did not even know about hockey when he was raising Mika in Stockholm, Sweden. He is a soccer and football player, who has competed for the national soccer teams of Iran and Sweden, and at the highest level for soccer. Mika’s half-brother, Monir Kalgoum, however, is a center who continues to play professionally for several minor European hockey leagues. It was Monir who got Mika into hockey.
“I remember when he was a child I started to let him play tennis, he had his own coach,” Mehrdad said. “And one day he said, ‘Please tell my father, I don’t want to play with that old man all the time. I want to go play hockey.’ Growing up, every time his brother was picked up or went to play, he watched and loved it. You just run between the seats and play games. So that’s it [when I said]’I give up.'”
Mehrdad Zibanejad is one of the many fathers of Rangers players accompanying their children on a father’s trip this weekend. They have enjoyed many activities and quality time with their children as part of the first parents event since before the coronavirus pandemic.
After some of them took an afternoon trip around Nashville to see all the excitement the city has to offer, the group headed to Top Golf on Friday to catch the Rangers off. Mehrdad had been to Nashville many times before because he used to live in Atlanta, so it was an easy trip to come see Micah play throughout his years playing in Ottawa and New York.
Mehrdad said he moved to the United States because Mika was drafted into the NHL by the Senators in 2011.
“Try to be close and support him,” said Mehrdad, who had the honor of reading the lineup card before Thursday night’s game in Detroit, which was Mika’s 700th game. “Don’t tell him what to do, but just know that I’m there and [if] This is happening, that I will try and help you.”
There were 17 fathers on the trip, but Barclay Goodrow’s father, John, was the team’s veteran. He has been a part of five father tours over his son’s 10 seasons in the NHL. After participating in four of Barclay’s seasons with the Sharks, John had his first experience with the Rangers.
Family time on the road has the team in good spirits, which seems to be what they need after three tough losses at home earlier this month.
“It’s great to spend time with the players, obviously our kids, meet the dads,” John Goodrow said. “To win in such impressive fashion in Detroit makes it a fantastic trip to Nashville. It’s fun, it brings back a lot of memories of the minor hockey days where you went to the tournaments and the dads were outside, drinking coffee and watching the boys on the ice.”