As a small child, freshman Travis Turnbull skated and shot pucks in the basement of his home. In the 40-foot by 20-foot score court, Turnbull slowly but surely followed in the footsteps of his father, former NHL player Perry Turnbull. But on one particular afternoon, his daily routine in the basement would change dramatically.
“When he was a little kid, for him, the best presents were related to hockey,” Perry said. “Whether it was sticks or helmets or gloves or whatever it was.”
What Travis didn’t know that day was that his father had gotten him a pair of custom-made skates. Once he returned home, Perry handed Travis his new pair of skates. After skating around a bit A– stopping and starting a few times – he looked at his father.
“Dad,” Travis said. “I feel like a pro.”
Fast forward to 2005 and now Turnbull, much older, is skating for the Michigan hockey team and skating for the same coach that his father played under for five years with the St.. Louis Blues.
“I’m excited as heck,” Perry said. “Red (Berenson) was my favorite coach in the NHL, and, if I could’ve written it any better,” Turnbull said, “I couldn’t really.”
The father and son combo crossed paths with Berenson in completely different ways. Perry broke into the NHL at a very young age and was the second overall draft pick in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft – the pick of the St.. Louis Blues. Travis comes into Michigan with 10 other freshmen, two of whom (Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano) were drafted in the first round of the 2005 NHL draft.
But Turnbull has already made a name for himself on the Michigan hockey team. Thus far, Turnbull has four assists and one goal, including a game-winner against Boston College. And lately, he has been skating in the team’s top forward line alongside sophomore Kevin Porter and junior T.J…. Hensick.
“So far, he’s impressed us with his work ethic and offensive and defensive awareness and intensity,” Berenson said. “He’s doing a good job.”
Growing up in southern Missouri, Travis would take frequent fishing and hunting trips with his dad.
“As a kid, you want to be with your dad and that’s what I had planned for the day (hunting and fishing), and he wanted to come along,” Perry said. “How much he enjoyed it, I’m not certain to this day. But, he’d always participate, and he’s always been close to his dad.”
The smile that comes across Travis’s face when he talks of the times with his father is more than enough evidence that each experience was a special one and that the fishing and hunting trips were anything but a burden.
“We have a great relationship – he’s like my best friend,” Travis said. “I talk to him every single day, a couple of times (a day) actually, and I really look up to him a lot.”
During the season’s first game, it was apparent the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. After the game’s first goal was incorrectly credited to Turnbull – the son of a man who once passed up an open-net breakaway to allow his right-winger to score – he was the first to be on the bench telling his coaches it wasn’t him that scored, it was fellow freshman Danny Fardig.
“He grew up in that environment, and you take credit for what you get,” Perry said. “If someone gets one that they shouldn’t, and the team wins, that’s not important. I know over the years I’ve scored a few goals I didn’t get credit for – I should’ve had an assist here or there – but to me points didn’t matter, it was the success of the team.”
The work ethic and team-first attitude has undoubtedly rubbed off on Travis, and the Wolverines’ success this season will partly hinge on this type of play from the freshman.
Although Turnbull has traded in his basement for Yost Ice Arena, he is still honing his skills for what he hopes is a successful hockey career.
And no matter how well Travis does on the ice, his father will still be just as proud as he was when Travis was skating in his basement and feeling like a pro.