I’ve been blessed to experience many special moments throughout my life and my professional hockey career. However, nothing will ever come close to topping the feeling I get every day knowing that I am a father. Today, I celebrate my third Father’s Day as the father to my son, Joel Reign William Elmes, and my daughter, Alyza Jade Elmes. Joel was born right after my rookie season with the Rush ended on April 17, 2018, while Alyza came into the world earlier this season on February 11, 2020. Both are, thankfully, happy and healthy, as is my girlfriend, their mother, Arianna.
The first time I was told I was going to be a father was three years ago in October of 2017. I was in the middle of packing up to go to training camp for both the AHL’s Iowa Wild and for the Rush. Simply put, I was so excited. All I could think about in that instant was making the best future I possibly could for my little boy once he joined our family. I made the Rush out of camp and stayed my whole rookie year, playing top minutes and establishing myself as a professional. Earning the assistant captaincy at the end of the season, in addition to the 2018 Blaine Jarvis “Heart and Soul Award”, was the icing on the cake, as it happened just a few weeks before I got to meet my son. Fast forward to the summer of 2019, I made the decision to come back to the Rush following a playoff run with the Fort Wayne Komets. Shortly after I made my decision, I found out that we were going to add a daughter to our family. In both moments, life briefly stopped for an instant. Becoming a parent is a big leap: it changes your perception on life, decision making, work, and so much more. It was all so surreal, and I’m grateful throughout every step I’ve taken in this journey.
Of course, to become a successful father, it helps to learn from one. My dad and I are very close, and he’s been a pillar of strength for me throughout my whole life, including the moment I found out that I was going to be a father. When we got the news, he shared with me many of his memories and lessons from when I was born. One important lesson he taught me right away was to embrace the excitement that came along with being a father. He said he’d never felt anything better than being a dad, and was even more excited for all of the great times that were to come after he became one. I felt the exact same way when Joel and Alyza both came into the world.
Part of that excitement in being a father that he shared came in watching me, my brother Jaxon, and my sister Jalyn all grow up, especially when it came to hockey. Both of my parents did everything they could for all three of our hockey careers. My dad spent countless hours on the highway taking us to camps, tournaments, games…you name it. He spent just as many hours at the rink either coaching me or watching me play. As we got older, he’d play street hockey with my siblings and I, and would take us to outdoor rinks to skate. He had a blast being a part of how we practiced and watching us play. He got to see me grow up to be a professional hockey player with the Rush, Jax play for the Moosomin Rangers at the senior hockey level, and Jalyn serve as the Captain for the University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey team. Jalyn, by the way, just signed to play professionally in Sweden with Brynäs IF, and has a great chance to play in the Olympics one day with Team Canada. I try every day to make him and my siblings proud, and being the best father I can be is just as much a part of that as my hockey career is.
My father has great life experience, especially helping my mom raise the three of us. With great experience comes great wisdom, and one of the most important lessons my father taught me is one that you hear everywhere you go in life: treat others the way you’d like to be treated. It’s how I try to live my life every day. Life can be challenging if you hold a negative attitude and a misplaced contempt for others. Treat everyone like an equal human being, and I guarantee you’ll never regret a single day you live. Much of that lesson also bleeds into fatherhood. Treat your children properly, and help them grow every day you’re with them. Those life lessons of treating others are so important when your children get to the impressionable stage in life where they absorb everything, so it is imperative to establish that early.
The weeks and days leading up to Joel’s birthday were mentally challenging. The excitement and adrenaline rush of what was to come with my first child got me through all of that. His birthday on April 17, 2018 is a day I’ll never forget. Joel’s birthday came with some calm, as I had just finished the season with the Rush and made it back home for the summer. It was a happy and proud day not just for Arianna and I, but both of our families as well. When I got to hold him for the first time in the hospital, it was like the world just stopped. I was in awe at this little ball of life swaddled up with a tiny hat on. This little boy was mine, and I couldn’t have been more emotional and happy. Two years later, when my daughter, Alyza, was born on February 11, 2020, I felt the same excitement and hope as I did for Joel. The only difference was Alyza was born mid-season, so it was a bit more hectic, as I had to still perform on the ice while thinking of her coming into the world. I remember the day before the “School Day Game” against the Allen Americans getting the call that she was born. I was just so happy, that’s really all I can say about it. The next morning, we beat Allen (and I notched an assist on the only goal of the game to celebrate) and immediately jumped into the car and high-tailed it 10 hours home to Brandon, Manitoba to see my new daughter. It was a crazy few days of travel and exhaustion, but absolute pure happiness. I missed the Friday night rematch against Allen, but made it back in time for the finale on Saturday, which we also won. That was the week that made our family whole: me, Arianna, Joel, and Alyza all together as one. We were very blessed that Joel and Alyza were born healthy.
I’ve always had a great respect for Father’s Day and the men it celebrates, particularly my own father. The meaning remains the same, but the idea that the day also includes me in its celebration has been a unique one to grasp since 2018. Every day, I try to be the best man and best father that I can be for my family. My parents gave me and my siblings a tremendous life, and I’m doing everything I can to provide the same for Arianna, Joel, and Alyza. Father’s Day is really a celebration of family and what brings us together. I can’t celebrate Father’s Day had it not been for my dad before me, Arianna, or my children. They add so much meaning to everything.
If you’re a new father, or about to be one, and you’re reading this, my best advice for you is to take the journey day by day. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that some days are very mentally and physically challenging. With each day, however, comes a different lesson. You’ll continue to learn more aspects about being a parent, and learn even more about your children so you can better understand them as they get older. You grow with them, really, and the more you grow together, the more you appreciate them. They’re such a special part of life, and it makes life even more meaningful when you cherish each moment with them from the time they were born. As I said earlier, my dad taught me to embrace the excitement of fatherhood. I know I have, and it has made me a better man than I ever could have imagined.