Definitely. And I’m not fully sure how to feel about these changes.
First off, the truth: when I was playing hockey as a career, I tried to avoid the team as much as possible away from the rink, save for a roommate or two. It’s not that I didn’t like my teammates, it’s just the obvious: you see them at morning skate, pre-game meal, game time, at practices, on planes and buses, in the dressing room, in the hotel, in the weight room. And, the season is long and comes with very few breaks.
There are probably plenty of you out there who like your co-workers just fine, but find 9-5 more than ample in the “time spent together” category.
Combine that with the hockey player “dude” mentality – farts and chicks, you guys – and holy hell is it nice to get a little alone time. I was occasionally chirped for reading a book while we traveled. It gets grating.
So, I get wanting your own hotel room. I roomed with one of my best friends in the world for a lotta years in college, and we’d have both happily spent our time apart on the road just to have a little space. Hell, I was tempted to pay for an extra room some nights. And I was lucky I spent that time with a buddy – sometimes you’re with the guy who likes the AC set to 30 below, sleeps with the TV on and snores. That stuff affects your play.
We’ve reached the point of the NHL season where some players are about to have a terrible, awful epiphany: “Oh crap. We suck, don’t we?” I’m not sure that any NHL team is quite there yet (maybe the Flames?), but you rarely make the switch overnight. Suspicions slowly start to grow until one day, it happens. “Oh #$%&.”
I was kicking this around in my head after getting the following two tweets:
@jtbourne How often would you say players on bad teams know they’re on bad teams early on in the season?
For starters: I would say players have a pretty good idea, plus-or-minus a few spots where their team is at heading into the season. “We’re going to be a bubble team,” “We have a legit shot to win the conference,” “We’re going to have to be our best every night if we want to be anything other than awful.” The last one basically equals “I’m aware we’re awful.”
But as the schedule moves along and your record takes shape and you consider how you think your team has played, that’s when it hits most guys. “Dammit, we’ve played well and we’re still only .500. We’re in trouble.”
To answer the second question I can definitively say at this point that no, neither the Leafs or Wild know their teams are going to miss playoffs. They may be in the suspicious group, but anyone can win in the NHL on any night, and I’m sure they’re still holding out hope for a few game run. It’s when it’s too late for that run to even matter that you lick the stamp and mail it in.
When you finally accept that your team isn’t going to see the post-season, a snowball of negativity takes out the last leg your garbage team is standing on, and what looks like tanking begins.
Most hockey players are aware of the phenomenon that is the inability to sleep after a game. The only thing different in rec leagues is that there’s usually one or 30 more cans of beer left in the dressing room.
For professionals, back-to-back games are common and getting a decent night’s sleep can be essential to playing well the second night. Since you play in less than 24 hours, things like sleeping pills and alcohol aren’t exactly the greatest idea. You’re forced to just deal with it as best you can, which usually means staring at the ceiling and re-hashing the wide open net you missed in the first period.
A light spin on the bike, a big meal and maybe a single beer are usually a decent start towards being ready to sleep – still, it’s going to take until well after one in the morning for those things to kick in. Because of that reality, you have to be sure to take extra care of the other factors that affect whether you feel fresh or not. Read the rest of this entry »
Players in hockey at all levels get hit, shoved, and pushed from behind frequently. When you’re chasing a puck and a player into the corner, it’s not remotely uncommon to give a guy a shove in the back, which assuming the players is aware of your presence, barely phases him. It’s a fight for body position, and they continue to battle like nothing happened.
Occasionally, a player isn’t aware the contact is coming and they go into the boards head-first, and we get to talking suspension. In other cases, a player is in too awkward a position to get their hands up to stop themselves from hitting the boards, or they get hit with more force than they expect, and they get smooshed into the dasher in some precarious position. It’s obviously very dangerous, and it happened to Patrick Kaleta last night courtesy Mike Brown: Read the rest of this entry »
Last night I was watching the Edmonton Oilers play the Colorado Avalanche, when a particular shift caught my eye. Something called a “Teemu Hartikainen” on the Oilers had the puck behind the Avalanche net, and was protecting it like a basketball player backing an opponent in under the basket, using his body as a shield for the puck. He never got there, and actually, the defender did well to keep the Oilers’ forward “on the paint” as they say, but he and his linemates did spend the majority of the shift in the Avs end. That was likely all they wanted.
For a fourth line player (that’s what he is on the Oil for now, anyway), that is basically the equivalent of hitting a home-run (I guess that makes a goal a grand slam). Your job as a low-liner is essentially to not get scored on, to lay the body, and to play well enough to let the team’s offensive dynamos rest. Fourth liners shoot from long distances and poor angles when given the chance because a shot in their stat column looks good, (…put on a Don Cherry-esque Canadian accent here) and good things happen when you get the puck to the net, boys and girls! Also, coaches like those simple plays from their worker bees.
For a skill player on the bench, watching these successful grinder shifts can bring mixed emotions, because you know what’s coming: reward minutes. Most forwards would rather play until they’re ragged, 20, 22, 25 minutes or whatever, so they can stay in the flow, get more opportunities and never get cold. Because Hartinkainen and his linemates were getting their job done, you know the minutes are about to be spread around like house hockey. It makes sense (to a degree) from a coach’s standpoint, that if your third and fourth line are having success you should play them more, but sometimes they lose track of why those guys are on the fourth line in the first place, and the reality is that they’re meeting awfully low standards to begin with. Most low-liners can’t control the play consistently, and if you over-use them, you will eventually regret it. Yet…it happens. Read the rest of this entry »
Since I left hockey as a career and took to writing, I’ve covered plenty of “in the room” stuff that some fans may not know about it, including a seven part series that sums up travel, practice, game days and so on. I wrote them when my audience was smaller, so I occasionally get requests from people who’d like to know a little bit more about the ____ part of hockey. In turn, I’ll be sprinkling them in periodically throughout the season. Seeing all the success from rookies in the early part of the season, and a lot of the tilts right off the opening faceoffs, I felt like today was a good time to run an explanation of how “money on the board” works. This originally ran in The Hockey News in September of 2009, hope you enjoy.
For two decades Pete Rose has been blackballed for gambling on his own baseball team, which seems a little severe, given that professional hockey players literally do it every single game.
It’s an accepted part of dressing-room culture, like heaping verbal abuse on the nearest human in range. The difference between Charlie Hustle and the hockey hustle is that when hockey players put “Money on the Board,” everybody wins.
Before each game, a few players will saunter up to the dry-erase board in silence and put their jersey number down, with a dollar amount beside it. It means “If we win, I’ll donate this number of dollars to the team pot.”
#12 – $50
For most games, there are three or four numbers on the list. For bigger games, the list of participants gets longer. If the game is big enough, even the coaches might put some money on the board. Read the rest of this entry »
In yesterday’s Rangers/Penguins contest, Arron Asham and Tanner Glass dropped the mitts two seconds after puck drop and conducted what our own Chris Lund deemed a “lame, scripted fight.” There are plenty of people in Lund’s corner on this, and unsurprisingly, the side that’s pro-fighting wasn’t the most eloquent in response in the comment section.
Still, “scripted” aside, it was an incredible tilt between two middleweights who are tough as nails. Fight connoisseurs will love this.