Pierre Racicot and Stephane Provost began a ritual on May 11, 1999, when Provost’s youngest daughter, Ashley, was born.

Racicot showed up at the Weston, Fla., hospital with a cooler of beer and the best friends and on-ice partners shared lots of laughs, talked excitedly about the future and toasted fatherhood as they anxiously awaited Ashley’s arrival.

Six months later, when Racicot’s son was ready to arrive, Provost dropped by the hospital with a cooler of beer. The 32-year-old NHL linesmen yukked it up over a couple of cold ones as they waited for Harrison to be born.

Five years later, when Provost’s wife, Sandra, was in labor with the couple’s second daughter, Reily, the tradition continued.

“The nurses looked at us and go, ‘OK, you guys, what’s this all about? Who brings beer to a hospital?’” Racicot recalls with a hearty laugh. “But that was our ritual. The doctor would come in and go, ‘OK, it’s time.’ I’d say, ‘All right, I’ll be outside.’ And Steph would say, ‘I’ll see you in a few minutes.’

“My God,” Racicot says, “Ashley and Reily … they were Daddy’s girls.”

That’s why, from the moment Racicot received the horrifying phone call in the early-morning hours of April 22, 2005, he made it his life’s work to ensure that his best friend’s proudest achievements would always be taken care of.

“He’s our guardian angel,” Ashley says. “Pierre’s honestly like our second dad.”

It’s been 16 years since Provost died in a motorcycle accident just a mile from his home. Saturday night, before the Tampa Bay Lightning-Florida Panthers game at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Racicot will join fellow NHL linesman Jonny Murray and referees Kelly Sutherland and Frederick L’Ecuyer at the center-ice faceoff dot just after the national anthem to perform the same pregame ritual that officials have done before every NHL game since.