Last Wednesday night, following a game in Montreal, the Canucks bused to Ottawa for their game Thursday night.
The drive, roughly two hours, had us in Ottawa around 1:30 a.m., but we detoured on our route to the hotel. You’ve got to be kidding me, an exhausted Derek thought to himself, where could we be going? The only acceptable answer would have been to visit a laser tag arena or something equally as sweet.
We were at the Canadian Tire Centre because the training staff needed to be dropped off to get the Canucks dressing room ready for the following day.
Couldn’t it wait?
It could not.
Wet hockey equipment, for those who have never smelt it, is quite pungent and leaving it in a wet bag overnight might just result in a weapon for chemical warfare.
So off they went, namely Pat O’Neill, Brian Hamilton, Mac Stewart, Roger Takahashi, Jon Sanderson and Dave Zarn, to put in a graveyard shift and prep everything for morning.
Same graveyard shift was again worked when we arrived in Toronto at 1 a.m. last Thursday night, and upon arrival in New York early morning two nights later. It’s part of the job and if you think it’s glorious, you’re sadly mistaken.
“It’s like anything, it’s a lifestyle and it’s what you do,” said Brian Hamilton, aka ‘Red.’ “You call home and they’re going to bed and you call the next morning and they’re not up yet and you’ve still worked four hours and slept in between that, with a three hour time difference. That always makes me laugh.”
Before traveling with the Canucks and seeing all the work that goes on behind the scenes, I’m not sure what I thought happened. Equipment fairies? Maybe the last team in set it up for the incoming team? Home rink staff took care of business?
Cold. Cold. Warmer!
“The home team always sends an equipment guy to pick us up in an equipment truck and brings us to the rink,” explained Red, assistant equipment manager “We’re pretty lucky, in most cases we get into a nice room and have lots of help.”
O’Neill, Canucks equipment manager, is first into the room, placing each player’s bag where said player will sit. Then it’s a team effort to unload the bags, do laundry and get everything organized.
When the players come in the next morning, the room is immaculate and looks like it’s been set up like that forever. In reality, the whole process takes about 45 minutes.
“We have it down to a pretty good science. We spend a lot of time preparing before hand, so when we pack up to leave one city, we pack in a way that makes it quicker when we get to the next city. We always have more time in the city we’re in to get everything ready, as opposed to spending more time on it in the next city.”
Ninety-five per cent of the time, this is the process, but every once and a while, concerts or other arena events come into play and gum up the works.
When the Canucks get to New Jersey in early December, for example, they won’t have morning skate. So the training staff has more time to get the room ready in the morning.
The Canucks had a team day off Sunday in New York and it goes without saying the training staff slept in.
They deserved it.
It’s funny seeing the reaction to what we’re posting on the Canucks social media channels these days. No matter what it is, a Movember plug, a photo of a guy getting his equipment on, even a blog about Gudbranson and his younger brother, the comments are generally the same: “You should stop focusing on growing mustaches and focus more on scoring goals” or “Get your equipment on already and go win some games,” and my personal favourite: “Spending time with your brother isn’t making you a better hockey player.”
So, yeah. It’s been a rough trip and happy story-lines have all but dried up. Thankfully our training staff never sleeps and gave me something to write about!
“Quit focusing on the equipment staff and win some games.”
It’s only a matter of time.
Onward and upward!