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The Official Site of the Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Mailbag: March 24

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
We're back with the final Avalanche Mailbag of the 2010-11 season.

As always, your questions are in bold. If we feel the need to provide some additional commentary or clarification, it will come in italics before the player gives his answer.

Now, on to the Q&A:

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My question is for any of the guys. I’ve seen stories that talk about how NBA players often wear a new pair of sneakers for every single game, or maybe every other game. That said, how many pairs of skates do NHL players typically go through in a season?
Becky from Calgary, Alberta

Great question, Becky. We went to Matt Duchene for this one. As you can see, when it comes to equipment preferences, it really varies from player to player. Some players will use the same shoulder pads throughout their career. Others are very finicky, as Daniel Winnik described in a mailbag earlier this season. Let’s see what Matt has to say:

“It depends on the player. I think I’m only on my second pair this year. They’re pretty much done, but I’m probably going to wear them until the end of the season and get a new pair at the beginning of next season. I can use old stuff and I can use new stuff. I’m really easy with gear, whether it’s old or brand new. I’m the same with sticks. I’ll keep using them and using them until they break. I would say that usually guys will average three, four or five pairs a year.”

To Erik Johnson:
In an interview we saw, you mentioned having a couple of dogs to bring to Denver with you. Please tell us about them, such as: names, ages, how long have you've had them, etc. Also is it difficult trying to find someone to take care of them with your hectic NHL schedule?
Welcome to the Avalanche!
Sean & Rachel from Boulder, Colorado

“I have two Golden Retrievers, a boy and a girl. The girl’s name is Vada and she’ll be three soon. The boy’s name is Sebastian, but we just call him ‘Beast’. He’ll be two this July. I also have a Bernese Mountain Dog named Gia, who will be two in September. I’ve had them since they were puppies. It’s not so bad finding help with them. There are people here who want to walk them and take care of them. I also have people coming in from out of town all the time, so it’s not that bad.”

To Paul Stastny
I am from Omaha, NE and have been going to Omaha Lancers (USHL) games for a long time now and I watched you play here also. Do you still have ties or come back to Omaha for anything? How much credit do you give to Lancers for your NHL career? What was your favorite thing about the Omaha Lancers?
Dan from Papillion, Nebraska

“I don’t go back there often but I’m still friends with a lot of my teammates and keep in touch with a lot of them. I give the Lancers a lot of credit. From my junior year to my senior year I made a lot of steps and I credit Coach (Mike) Hastings for a lot of that. He did an unbelievable job and might have been the toughest coach I’ve played for. When you walk away from it and you look back I think he was the best coach I’ve had. He should get a lot of credit, and the community itself is unbelievable.

“What I’ll think about when I look back is all the good times and the bad times we had as a team. With coach Hastings, when things were going good he was great, but when things were going bad the players really saw it, whether it was bag skates or 5:00 a.m. workouts before school. I remember one day we got back from a road trip at 3:00 a.m. and we had to be at the rink by 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning. We just did the hardest workout and we had 20 minutes to get to school. Me and Jeff LoVecchio  - he played at Western Michigan and is in Florida’s system - went back to school and got to class five minutes early. “We told our teacher that we got back at 3:00 a.m. and had a workout at 6:00, so we’re going to sleep. He just told us to go ahead and be quiet, so we put our heads down and were able to sleep through our first couple of classes to get our energy for practice that day.”

Hi Matt! Do you or any of the other guys have any pre-game rituals? Thanks!
Chelsea from Milwaukie, Oregon

“I go to the rink and then watch some TV for a bit in the lounge, watch some hockey or whatever. Then I tape my stick and we have our meetings. Sometimes I’ll get some therapy if I’ve been banged up. Next I play some soccer with a whole bunch of guys to warm up. We play a game called ‘two-touch’ where you basically try to knock the other guys out and the last guy standing wins. You get two touches of the ball and if you touch it a third time you’re out. If you touch it and it hits the ground, you’re out. There are obviously some gray areas if a guy doesn’t go for it and it hits the ground. It gets pretty competitive but it’s fun. After that, I get dressed and head out for warm-ups.”

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I have a question for anyone willing to answer. How and where do NHL players get their gear to play hockey? Does each player have to pay for his own gear, or does the team pay for it? Or does the company "sponsor" a player to wear their gear? Thanks for answering and good luck the rest of the way boys!
Eric from North Providence, Rhode Island

Thanks for your question, Erik. We tabbed David Jones to provide an answer for you.

“As far as I know, nobody pays for it. Companies sponsor some guys, but everything is provided for you. You have your choice of anything, pretty much. I think some players get incentive deals if they wear certain gloves, helmets, pants or stuff like that. Nobody is paying for anything, as far as I know. At the beginning of the year we come in and they have every type of equipment. You just kind of choose whatever you want and guys will try out different things. If you have a good season, sometimes reps from the different companies will approach you. Some of the top players have sponsorship deals. It’s an expensive sport, so it’s nice to not have to pay for anything.”

I want to ask Ryan Stoa about his first career NHL shootout attempt against Edmonton. Ryan, were you surprised at all about getting a tap on the shoulder by Coach Sacco in the shootout? And what was going through your head, considering you had never been put in that situation at the NHL level before and you had a chance to win the game?
Dave from Edina, Minnesota

“I definitely expected other guys to go before me, but I thought in the back of my mind there was always a chance. At that point, there was really no pressure because if I missed, (Brian) Elliott has another chance to stop them and we have another shooter. Clearly nobody wants to miss, but that made it easier. Really, I was just paying attention to what other guys did. Budaj is really good at telling us what the other goalies do and how they react to different stuff, so that really helps.

My question is for Ryan Wilson. The Avalanche has used a large number of defensemen throughout the course of this season. How long does it truly take someone to gain the “necessary chemistry” with a defensive partner that it takes to be successful as a pairing?
Jill from Austin, Texas

You’re right Jill. Due mainly to injuries and trades, 14 different defensemen have suited up for the Avalanche this season. Of those 14 players, 11 of them have played at least 14 games in an Avalanche sweater this season. You would think that might make it tough to find chemistry, but Ryan said that’s not entirely the case.

“The main thing is that you have to keep talking and sort everything out between the two of you guys. You gain a little more chemistry each game. It definitely does take a little while, but you can pretty much play with anybody. Everybody has a good skill set and knows the game well enough to be up here. I think you keep building the longer you play with guys. It shouldn’t take more than one practice or one game to really get used to what the other guy is doing.”
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