CLEVELAND – The Blue Jackets came to Cleveland to work first, but of course, there’s always time for some fun.
After yesterday’s practice, they toured the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, a trip that was highlighted by an ensemble rendition of Billy Joel’s famous hit “Piano Man,” led by Brandon Saad on the piano. If you haven’t seen it, check out our Twitter account for the video. It’s pretty good.
They were back to work this morning at OBM Arena, the second of two practices on a trip that’s given the Blue Jackets some exposure not just to their new affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, but also to the city of Cleveland – one of coach Todd Richards’ favorite cities. Richards spent a lot of time in Cleveland during his playing career in the IHL, and one of his closest friends is Cleveland Indians head groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke, whom he met back in the late 1990s.
Another good friend of Richards’ is Lakewood Country Club head golf professional Tom Waitrovich, who’s from Duluth, Minn., about two hours from the Twin Cities suburb of Crystal where Richards grew up.
“It’s right up the road,” Richards said of the Cleveland trip. “It's great. And Cleveland has a lot to offer. The rink here is great, it has everything you need. (Cleveland) is one of my favorite cities. I had a lot of fun here and I established some friends here, too, that still live here. I always look forward to it. Wherever you go, it’s always about the people.”
Personal anecdotes aside, Richards felt like the Blue Jackets accomplished a lot during this two-day venture up I-71. He said a return visit is a possibility (added to the idea of playing a preseason game at Quicken Loans Arena) and it’s something that coaches and management will discuss when they plan for future seasons.
“It was good getting up here and getting on the road together,” Richards said. “You spend time together in the hotels, spend time at the rink, on the bus. That’s what you want. You want the guys to be together. And there will stories that come out of it…stories that we probably can’t share with you guys.”
Other stuff from today’s practice:
- Ryan Johansen missed practice yesterday for maintenance purposes but was back on the ice this morning, in his usual spot between Saad and Nick Foligno.
- Everyone else was present and accounted for. You know them already, but here are the lines: Saad-Johansen-Foligno, Jenner-Dubinsky-Bourque, Hartnell-Wennberg-Atkinson, Calvert-Campbell-Clarkson with Karlsson and Boll rotating in.
- You also know the defense pairs, but anyway: Murray-Savard, Tyutin-Johnson, Connauton-Prout with Goloubef rotating in, as well.
- A fun wrinkle at the end of today’s practice was the first “ugly tie shootout.” Some teams have “mustache” shootouts, where the last player who hasn’t scored has to wear a mustache for the month, but captain Foligno had a different idea. The Blue Jackets' shootout loser has to wear a pre-selected “ugly tie” to all of that month’s road games.
- Ironically enough, the last man standing today was Foligno, so he’ll sporting the fresh look on Saturday when the Blue Jackets travel to New York. Fingers crossed for photo evidence. It was a back-and-forth battle between Foligno and Jack Johnson to decide the…champion? That’s not the right word.
- Richards is a big Neil Diamond fan (his favorite song is “Holly Holy”) which gives him some company with Ryan Murray, a huge Diamond fan in his own right. “Sweet Caroline” is obviously most of the world’s only exposure to Diamond, but Richards recently downloaded a live version of “Holly Holy” that he’s pretty excited about.