Noted NASCAR fan and former Capitals defenseman Mark Tinordi had his week all mapped out.
With Bristol Motor Speedway hosting the Food City 500 last Sunday, Tinordi and three friends travelled seven hours from Annapolis, MD to Bristol, TN last Tuesday. They drove down in Tinordi’s car while towing his motorhome along the way.
Tinordi’s plan was to spend much of the week at the Speedway campgrounds and enjoy the racing festivities throughout the weekend.
A funny thing happened though two days before the race; Mark’s son Jarred called to say that he would be making his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens that same weekend.
“I was pretty excited for him,” Mark Tinordi told CSNWashington.com this week.
“The story when he first called us [on Thursday] was that he was going to be a seventh defenseman and that he wasn’t actually going to play. So when he called back on the Friday to say that he was playing, I was pretty excited. You kind of just drop everything and obviously try your best to be there.”
The Canadiens selected Jarred Tinordi in the first-round of the 2010 NHL Draft (22nd overall) - just three slots before the Capitals would select Evgeny Kuznetsov- and the 21-year-old defenseman has impressed in his first professional season.
After spending two years with Dale Hunter’s London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and captaining the team to an OHL title last season, Tinordi has spent much of the 2012-13 season with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League.
Jarred was told Friday morning that he would make his NHL debut one night later against the New Jersey Devils in Newark. Soon after learning the news himself, Jarred called his father in Bristol.
“So we end up driving back Saturday morning,” Mark explained. “There was a lot of driving. We left [Bristol] at three in the morning and got back to Annapolis and picked up my daughter at the airport, then we picked up my brother and his wife at the airport in Newark and then we went to the game.”
A March snowfall made for poor driving conditions and the Tinordis only arrived at the Prudential Center about an hour before puck drop. The time and effort though proved worthwhile as Jarred had a debut to remember.
Tinordi played primarily with 37-year-old Francis Bouillon, and the rookie skated 14:48 and assisted on the eventual game-winning goal as the Canadiens beat the Devils 2-1 for their fifth straight win.
“I haven’t had too much advice for him,” said Mark, who played with the Capitals from 1995-99.
“Just make easy plays, make the first one you see and just to keep things in perspective, especially in Montreal. After the game, because he had a good first game, there’s a lot of excitement and you just have to keep things in perspective, especially in that city. One day you’re going to be great and then the next day maybe you’re going to be terrible so you’ve just got to keep yourself on an even keel and keep moving. You don’t want to go up and down with every game you play.”
Jarred made his regular-season Bell Centre debut on Tuesday in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Buffalo Sabres, recording three shots on goal and a delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass.
“He’s played a few exhibition games in Montreal but I think it’s still pretty new. I don’t think he knows really what it’s like yet. So far it’s all been pretty positive so I think the longer that he’s there the more he’ll understand what it is to play there so I think that’s all about to come in the future.”
Tinordi is listed as a 6-foot-6, 218-pound defenseman who, despite his size, has strong mobility but doesn’t quite bring the same physicality that father Mark was known for during his career.
“The times were a bit different when I played too,” said Mark, who played parts of 12 seasons with the New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars and Capitals and collected 1514 penalty minutes in 663 career games.
“I probably played a little more aggressive than he does, but he skates a lot better than I did. I think he’s a little bit better that way, but he’s going to have to find his own way. I keep telling him that he’s going to have to play aggressive because that’s just the way you have to do it these days. You have to attack, you can’t sit back.”
Jarred Tinordi has remained with the Canadiens for nearly a week, but Mark and the rest of the family all returned to their pre-planned activities soon after last Saturday’s game in Newark.
“After the game we took my daughter back [to Annapolis] so she could fly out [to South Carolina] the next morning. Then we left [Annapolis] at two in the morning and got down to Bristol at 8:30 in the morning.”
Yes, Mark returned to Bristol to tailgate Sunday morning watch the race that afternoon.
“Yeah- it sounds crazy, but we did it. I think I was up for 28 hours.”
Seriously Mark- you couldn’t just go back to Bristol next year?
“Well, I left my motor home there. We drove to the game in the car so my motor home was still there and I was going to have to go back at some point to get it…. It was a fun weekend. We won’t forget it.”