After a whirlwind Saturday for Jordan Leopold, a day in which he had a morning practice with one team and then played an evening game with another, you would imagine that he might take the weekend to catch his breath, experience Columbus, or just let it sink in that he’s part of a new organization.
You would be wrong.
“I got into town last night at 2:30 a.m.,” said Leopold after Monday's practice.
Leopold, 34 years old and playing for his seventh team, played 17:11 with his new team before talking with the media and heading back on the road. After all, another Leopold was going to be suiting up in just a few hours.
“I rented a car after the game and drove back to St. Louis," Leopold said. "My son had hockey at 8 a.m. and I couldn’t get a flight early enough, so I drove back six hours, got in at 4 a.m. and got a couple hours of sleep. Then I went to hockey, my wife helped me pack some things, and I was back on the road at six.”
And so we are reminded that while hockey players make their living at the rink, traveling by bus or plane from city to city as part of a weekly routine, a sudden trade is still a major adjustment for both the player and his family.
“It’s hilarious because the culture is different between the U.S. and Canada,” said Leopold, who has played two different stints with the Calgary Flames. “U.S. people think about that, but Canadians don’t. There’s some coordination, there’s some heartache, there’s a lot of real life situations that nobody pays attention to because, let’s face it, we’re professional athletes.”
Leopold has had plenty of practice with that coordination, having been a desirable piece at the trade deadline for many playoff-bound teams. But making those adjustments this early in the season is a bit new to him.
“I’ve been traded a bunch of times, but it’s the first trade early in the season for me," Leopold said. "It’s always been more of a deadline or summer deal. To tell you the truth it was great, like a birth by fire. Don’t even think -- just go out and play.”
Leopold said associate coach Craig Hartsburg told him to keep it simple, to not think too much and to go play. Leopold would need to keep it simple, having barely had time to be briefed for the game between arriving at the rink, meeting management and the coaching staff, and getting on the ice for warm-ups.
As you could imagine, Leopold’s entire pregame routine was shelved just to be ready for game time.
“I didn’t nap, I didn’t eat," Leopold said. "I was eating meat in the back room between periods just to get some calories in me.”
It was a solid performance from a steady veteran on Saturday night under some trying circumstances. Despite the scramble just to get to Columbus, Leopold brought just what the coaching staff expects from him.
“He was just steady,” said coach Todd Richards. “It’s what you expect from a guy that’s played a lot of hockey at the highest level, coming form a good organization that does things the right way. He played a smart, steady game.”
Leopold knows that steady game is his greatest attribute, particularly as he becomes comfortable in his new surroundings and learns his partners on the blue line.
“As an older player, I understand my job is to be steady, make them better, make it easier for them.”