The Pittsburgh Penguins had a day off Monday. At least with regard to their obligations as professional hockey players.
Their obligations to a teammate — or brother, by the words of one of them — dictated otherwise.
After their 4-1 road win against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday that completed a three-game road trip, the Penguins did not fly home to Pittsburgh.
Instead, they trekked north of the border to Montreal and attended services for Claude Fouquet, the father of defenseman Kris Letang on Monday.
“He’s an older guy, an older brother and a mentor for a lot of young guys,” rookie defenseman PO Joseph said. “He’s been in this organization for a long time, so I think it was the least we could do to (pay) it back for everything that he did for us and everything that he’s still doing for us. It was a no-brainer for us, and we’re all happy to be there for him.”
Letang has been on a leave of absence from the team since at least Jan. 2. Officially, he has been designated as a “non-roster” as he attends to his family in Montreal. No timetable for a return to action has been determined for Letang, who also was dealing with an undisclosed injury at the time of his father’s death.
Even if he is physically elsewhere, Letang’s presence remains with his teammates.
“We are a family in here,” defenseman Marcus Pettersson said. “I think we wanted to show that. It’s been a tough stretch for him there. He knows that we’re fully behind him and everything like that. His family of him, too. It was good for us to go there and see the wake and see their family and show support.”
To a man, the members of the Penguins who spoke after an optional morning skate at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday in advance of a home game against the Vancouver Canucks indicated the decision to visit Letang was automatic.
But the details of making such a journey were hardly automatic, especially considering the Penguins were traveling from the other side of the continent and needed to have a team staffer travel from Pittsburgh with their passports — their three-game road trip was within the confines of the United States — in order to enter Canada.
Add in other factors such as the cost of such a flight, lodging arrangements as well as transportation within Montreal, and it was a daunting logistical challenge.
“There was a lot that went into it,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “There was some conversation when we were on the road with our leadership group and our players about potentially wanting to support (Letang) throughout this difficult time. And really, then it stemmed from there. We talked about a number of different scenarios and logistical challenges. We’re grateful that the Fenway Sports Group was 100% supportive of anything that the players wanted to do. We were able to work out some of the challenges. There were a fair amount of them, but we all felt strongly it was important to support (Letang) through such a difficult time.”
The past seven weeks have been difficult for Letang who suffered a stroke Nov. 28 and was briefly hospitalized due to that ailment.
Boosting the spirits of their teammate was paramount for the organization, even if it was far from convenient within the context of the schedule.
“It’s tough to imagine what he’s going through,” forward Teddy Blueger said. “He’s had a tough last month or so. It was good that the schedule allowed it and we were able to make it happen. We were all really happy to be able to be there for him, as much as we could. It’s obviously tough to see him the way he was. Tough to imagine what he’s going through. Just being there was good. It was important for all of us. I don’t think it was much of a discussion. … I imagine as soon as it became a possibility, it wasn’t a question.”
Notes: Goaltender Tristan Jarry worked out on the ice before the morning skate for the first time since he was injured Jan. 2. Sullivan labeled him as “day to day.” … Forward Josh Archibald (undisclosed, injured reserve) and Jeff Petry (suspected left arm, long-term injured reserve) worked out with Jarry as well. … Forward Ryan Poehling (undisclosed) worked out off the ice.
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .