Monday, August 30, 2010

Coyotes Training Camp Diary (2003), Part Tres

Here's the third part of my Coyotes Training Camp Diary. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2003:

I walked in at 8:15 this morning and was greeted by Gord, saying "You equipment guys just show up whenever you want, after all the work is done." I thought I was there early enough to help fold the towels and pass out the laundry, but they beat me to it. It's okay, though...there'll be another load of laundry before long. I can't believe how much laundry they do around here. With 30 or so players and coaches running around here, there's always some laundry spinning. That's half again as many guys as we have at any one time, and the rookies aren't even here yet. They're expecting a total of about 60 players once the last of the veterans have shown up and the rookies return from camp in L.A. That's about 3 times as many as we're going to have in camp.

Stan's Assistant, Tony Silva, returned this afternoon with all the gear from the rookie camp. There isn't enough room for everybody in the locker room, so a bunch of the rookies have to go over into the visitors' dressing room. In addition, the first cuts have been made so a bunch of guys are being sent back to their junior teams or released. So, basically, there's about 15 or so new guys arriving from the rookie camp, and about 8-10 guys are picking up their gear and leaving. This is all in addition to the 30+ guys that are already here. Even with the 3 Coyotes equipment guys and me to help this was shaping up to be a pretty long day. In the middle of all of this, Shane Doan was just kind of hanging around. He had an appearance to do later in the day and didn't see any point in going home and then turning around and coming back. I can't say I blame him for that. So he's just hanging around and trying to stay out of our way. Apparently, sitting around watching other people work isn't really his thing, so he starts helping out. He's hanging gear, gathering up laundry, and pretty much doing anything else he sees that needs to be done. After a while he heads over to the pizza parlor in the lobby of the practice rink and comes back with a large pizza. He drops it on the table and tells us it's time to take a break. So we spend the next 20 minutes or so eating our pizza, having a soda and listening to Stan and Shane's stories. They've got a million of 'em.

I think this is why Shane Doan is the Captain of the Coyotes, and it's definitely why he's my favorite Coyote. He's the longest-tenured veteran on the Coyotes (he and Stan are the only 2 former Jets remaining since the move from Winnipeg), yet he's the first guy to lend a helping hand or just hang out and talk. He's stopped and chatted with me every day that I've been helping out and made me feel right at home.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003:

I set about my usual task of setting up the bench for practice, and then checked around the shower area and changing room for towels or any other laundry. I was accosted by Coyotes Defenseman Ossi Vaananen. This kid is always smiling. Not a normal, friendly smile...the kind of smile that makes you think he's up to something. I've decided that it's probably because he's always up to something. Every day that he's seen me in my Scorpions hat and/or t-shirt, he has serenaded me with his version of "No One Like You". I keep telling him that the German metal band has nothing to do with the hockey team that I work for, but he doesn't listen. He thinks he's pretty funny (and I'm inclined to agree with him).

Ossi's in Stan's doghouse today. He had to take his jersey to a promotion yesterday and apparently decided to stop off for Chinese food on the way home. I can't imagine what would have possessed him to wear his jersey while he ate, but he came in this morning with Orange Chicken sauce all over the front of his brand new white jersey. He fully expected to feel the full extent of Stan's wrath, but Stan just said "No problem" and took the jersey back to the laundry room. He pre-soaked it (with his special blend of detergent and pre-wash) and the stain lifted right out. No problem.

That's what I like about Stan. Nothing fazes him. This profession requires a person to be good at dealing with the unexpected. The ones who excel make it look routine. I'm reminded of the old adage about the duck on the pond. On the surface, the duck appears to glide along effortlessly. Under the surface, however, those little legs are flailing away like crazy. That's kind of what it's like to be an Equipment Manager. You have to maintain your presence of mind when everything goes wrong at once. Stan is a master at it.

He's also a master at his craft. I watched him make a pair of goalie thigh-boards for Brian Boucher's pads. The NHL passed a new rule requiring all goalie knee protection to fit underneath the pants. This means that the old style thigh-boards (like 90% of goalies wear) are now illegal. The old thigh-boards are commonly referred to as "cheaters" because they help goalies close up the 5-hole when they go down in the butterfly position. It's one of those new rules designed to increase scoring and frustrate goalies (they're also talking about increasing the size of the nets and decreasing the allowable width of goalie pads). So, Stan cut the thigh pads out of a pair of hockey pants, went to his sewing machine and attached elastic straps with Velcro closures and a piece of leather (with holes to lace them into the pads) to each one and "Presto"...a new pair of thigh pads that look like they came from the factory. I stood there and watched him do it all in about 15 minutes. It was really something to see. I guess that's why they pay him the big bucks.

Today's ice time was broken up into 2 sessions because of the number of players. Group A took the ice and went through a pretty thorough workout (considering it's an unofficial camp doesn't officially start until Friday). Then it was a mad scramble to reset the bench and clean up the room before Group B took the ice. This meant more laundry. On a day like this, the washers and dryers get more of a workout than the players do. They ran from morning to evening; as soon as one load finished, another one took its place. The training staff also did double-duty. One thing they didn't contend with today was boredom. More new players arrived and had to get geared up; and now there are about 50 players running around this place, and leaving a trail of laundry and towels everywhere they go. The staff really has their hands full. They earned their money today.

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