Like father, like son
by Lucas AYKROYD|03 MAY 2024
Canada's Tij Iginla (centre) is one of many skaters at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship with a well-known hockey-playing father.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Chris Tanouye
Hockey is a small world. If you’ve ever spotted a young player with a familiar surname and said, “Hey, I wonder if that kid is so-and-so’s son?”, well, guess what? He probably is.

That tradition continues at the 2024 IIHF U18 World Championship in Finland. From Sweden and Slovakia to Canada and the U.S., these rosters abound with budding talents whose fathers suited up both in IIHF competition and the NHL.

Some of these fathers are among the biggest names in hockey history. Yet it’s clear that their sons mostly have learned how to take advantage of their famous dads’ experiences – while not placing undue pressure on themselves to be “clones of Dad” or outdo his feats.

Overwhelmingly, their sentiment is one of gratitude.

Case in point: Canada’s Tij Iginla. His dad, of course, is Jarome Iginla. The legendary Calgary Flames captain, who sits 36th in all-time NHL scoring (1,300 points), also scored twice in the 2002 Olympic final in Salt Lake City and led the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in goal-scoring (five). In both cases, Iginla reaped gold medals to go along with his 1996 World Junior and 1997 IIHF World Championship titles.

No pressure, right? Well, not according to his 17-year-old son, a projected 2024 NHL first-round pick from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets.

“He's meant so much to my career,” said Tij, whose sister Jade also starred for the U18 Canadian women’s team that won gold in Madison, Wisconsin in 2022. “Being able to work with him has been a great opportunity. He was a good player. He has a lot of knowledge about the game, so he tries to share as much of that with me as he can. And he;’s a great dad as well.”

Canadian teammate Ryder Ritchie’s father Byron is also based in Kelowna, a British Columbia city historically known for its Okanagan Valley vineyards and orchards.

Byron, a veteran of 332 NHL games with four clubs, also captained European teams like SC Bern and Modo Ornskoldsvik. So he’s a fruitful source of inspiration for his son.

“Getting to grow up watching him play and considering the role model and mentor he has been to me, I wouldn't be here without him,” said Ryder, another likely ‘24 first-rounder who had 47 points in 44 games despite battling injuries with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. “I owe him a lot. So I'm super thankful to have a dad like him.”

Miroslav Satan is equally grateful when he imagines what it would be like to get drafted this year.  The 18-year-old centre, of course, shares his name with one of Slovakia’s all-time greatest hockey heroes.

The senior Satan, a four-time Olympian, led the way in all four of his nation’s Worlds medal victories (silver in 2000 and 2012, gold in 2002, bronze in 2003). He also won a Stanley Cup in 2009 as a highlight of his 1,050-game NHL career.

“The first person I would say thank you to is my dad,” said the younger Satan. “He helped me a lot, teaching me how to play hockey. I remember he was the one who taught me how to skate and taught me how to shoot. He helped me a lot with some details in my game. I'm really thankful for that, him being my support throughout my career so far.”

Luka Radivojevic, the top Slovak defender at these U18 Worlds, echoes those sentiments when it comes to his father Branko. A gifted winger with 399 NHL games to his credit, Branko joined the elder Satan in Slovakia’s 2003 and 2012 Worlds medal runs.

“He means a lot in my career,” Radivojevic said. “He’ll help me with everything in hockey. I really appreciate that I get to have this chance, to have my father playing hockey before me, and now he gives his experience to me.”

Swedish forward Jack Berglund is following in his father Christian’s footsteps by coming up through the Farjestad system. The younger Berglund gave Swedish fans a thrill by scoring the 2-1 winner against Finland in Thursday’s quarter-finals. His dad – a two-time World Junior participant – is familiar to NHL fans from his early 2000’s stints with New Jersey and Florida prior to jumping to the Swiss NLA.

“He's a role model to follow because he’s been on the same journey as I am right now,” said Jack. “It's nice to have him to talk with, not just about hockey, but also stuff around hockey and the draft. It's nice to have someone who has done it himself.”

And U.S. assistant captain Max Plante is similarly blessed. His father Derek Plante, a 450-game NHLer who joined Satan as a 1999 Stanley Cup finalist with Buffalo, played in six World Championships. That included the 1996 U.S. bronze-medal team in Vienna.

Asked what he appreciates most about Derek’s support, Plante responded: “His hockey mind. Just the fact that he can share things with me. He represented USA in a bunch of different tournaments. And there’s my older brother Zam, too. He played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as well for the 2004 birth year. So it's learning from them, like how to represent the country, use the colors. You know you’re playing for something bigger than just a hockey team. You’re playing for a whole country.”

That’s an inspiring perspective that could serve Max well as he strives to help the U.S. win back-to-back U18 Worlds gold medals.

Yet win or lose, it’s safe to say that many young men at this tournament are making their fathers proud just by donning their national team jerseys and competing to the best of their abilities.