Unfortunately for Blake Comeau of the New York Islanders, it looks like he’s going to be a healthy scratch on Thursday. I personally have a fair share of experience in this (once in college, at least a dozen times in the AHL). Here’s what he’s in for:
The day is slow, depressing, and things seem bleak.
You don’t usually find out this as early as Comeau. More commonly, the day will start out like any other – you show up to the arena for morning skate, and see what colour jersey is in your stall. (If the trainer doesn’t hand out the jerseys until guys are there, it’s funny watching him run around the room, looking at his paper the coach gave him with the lines on it. It’s like the rose ceremony on The Bachelorette. AM I GOING TO GET A FIRST-LINE ROSE?)
If you’re the odd man out that day, your exile begins.
Healthy scratches need to A) stay in game shape for when they do get the call, and B) do a little something extra to show the coaches how bad they want to get back in the lineup.
This means getting out on the ice early and working on something – puck handling, shooting, something skill base. This means actually going balls out in morning skate while the guys on the top few lines play stress-free and casual on their way up to a sweat. This means…. bag skating.
Often an assistant coach will stay out with the guys not playing that night and put them through the paces after practice, something with a lot of stops and starts and not a lot of smiles.
The team is going to eat pre-game meal, then shut it down for a nap. You may find yourself in a hotel in some town you know very little about with nothing to do from 11a.m. until game time.
You do a lot of mall walking those days. If you’re at home, that usually means X-box time and a lot of checking the clock.
You still have to halfway prepare – you never know when someone may have an emergency reason they can’t play, and you still have to do a workout when the guys head out on the ice (I secretly think this is just to prevent guys from day-drinking up until game time, as I most likely would have).
Mentally it’s hard because you’re an outcast. Coaches don’t want the scratches around the guys that are playing in case they’re a distraction, so you can’t even really go into the dressing room unless you immediately go into the gym.
It’s a whole day where you feel awkward – you don’t have a jersey that means “on a line,” you don’t talk to the team all day, and you know you’re not in coach’s good books.
So you think – what does this mean, where am I heading, what did I do wrong, am I getting traded and on and on and on.
In hockey, nothing ever feels static – things are going great, or they’re going awful. Not getting the right jersey at morning skate on gameday is a shove in the wrong direction.