Brian and Tracy Bellows scampered to their seats a full hour before their son, Kieffer, took the ice Tuesday night with the Islanders for his NHL debut.
Their daughter, Brianna, FaceTimed with her parents just as they began taking photos and videos at Barclays Center. It was important. She needed the family’s login information so she could stream her brother’s first NHL game to the entire Alpha Chi Omega sorority house at the University of Nebraska.
But nothing could tear Brian Bellows’ attention from the ice. The elder Bellows, who was the second-overall pick by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1982 NHL, was waiting for his son’s “rookie lap,” a tradition in which players appearing in their first NHL game take a solo lap around the ice during warmups.
As he watched, before the Islanders defeated the Stars 4-3 in overtime, Brian Bellows reminisced with The Post about how his son got to this point and the influence he has had on Kieffer’s hockey career.
“I told him … ‘Listen, at some point in time you’ll get a call, just keep doing what you’re doing,’ ” said the elder Bellows, who enjoyed a 17-year NHL career with three All-Star nods. “Players don’t just go up on a trajectory, I kind of look at it like an escalator. You go up and then sometimes you go down a step and then you go back up three. It really changes.”
Brian, 55, said that his son made the first big jump in his hockey career while playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL). A then-16-year-old Kieffer recorded 52 points in 58 games.
However, when the left-handed winger went to go play for Boston University in the NCAA, under now Rangers head coach David Quinn, his game took a dip.
“Boston was his first year away,” Bellows recalled. “I think it was a combination of being away and having fun and you got to give him that, why not? They’re only 18. And he went to Portland [Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League] the next year and he was a different player and more mature.”
The young Bellows went on to cap off an already special night with his first NHL point, a late-credited assist on Derick Brassard’s second period goal. He was noticeable on the ice, in the good kind of way. Islanders coach Barry Trotz acknowledged that it was only one game, but listed a heap of positives that he saw in Kieffer’s first game.
Describing himself as a power forward, Kieffer said he likes to play physically and shoot the puck. He considers his shot to be one of his strengths, but hopes to continue implementing the little details into his game. He also said he hopes to learn from the veterans that he now has around him.
There are a lot of easy ways to spot a player who has been raised by a former NHLer. After the game, Kieffer made sure to thank all his teammates down in Bridgeport as well as all the former coaches he’s had that helped him along the way. He also admitted that he took notice of the big-name Dallas players like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn on the other end of the ice.
“I take a second in warm-ups to look across the ice and see guys that I’ve watched growing up and even this year watching on TV,” Bellows said.
“Jamie Benn is a guy I’ve looked up to my entire time coming up and I’ve tried to model my game after him. Going up to a faceoff against him was pretty – I was pretty star struck.”
When asked about who he thought was more nervous, him or his parents, for Tuesday night’s game, Kieffer confidently said it was them.
“There’s nerves but then as soon as I step on the ice, it feels like it just goes away,” Kieffer said after the win. “It’s just hockey. It’s fun and something I’ve done my whole life. I love to do it.”