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Behind the Bench: 10-5-09

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
We are taking a bus to Philadelphia today, and this is the second time that we will have ridden the bus to play the Flyers since I have been here. I was walking on air the last time we took the bus because I did not know what to expect and it was my first game. It was really exciting and felt so natural because I had been on the bus pretty much my entire life. It is crazy how NHL teams and NHL players get spoiled and coaches are no different. When I heard we were taking the bus this week, my first thought was, “Oh man, we are riding the bus? It is almost three hours.” Then I had to turn around and slap myself for getting spoiled.

The plane rides are so nice and easy. We charter and the food is usually really good as well, so it is easy to get spoiled. But every now and again it is good to get back on the bus and get grounded again and remember where your roots are. It is a chance to watch a movie as a team and enjoy the trip. I was always in charge of the movies, regardless if I was a player or coach, and I always got booed. I got a couple movies picked out for today, and I expect to get booed again. The big difference here is that everyone has their own computer, so if they don’t want to watch the movie then they just watch something that they brought.

I have spent the majority of my hockey career on a bus. You begin to bus in juniors, so I was riding a bus from 1972-2006, which is 34 years. That is a long time and a lot of bus rides. There are a few that stick out in my mind.

In 1976, I was in Dallas, and they don’t get a lot of snow or freezing rain there. I remember taking a trip from Oklahoma City to Dallas and it was freezing rain. Our bus began to slide and it slid sideways, not into the ditch, but onto the side of the road. The police came and the tires were spinning and we could not get any traction. Both officers took their guns out of their holsters and they started shooting the ice. They must have let 12 bullets go trying to break up the ice and all you here is a pinging sound of bullets hitting the ice. Most of us were Canadian kids that had never even heard a gunshot before and we had no idea where these bullets were going. All I was thinking was, “This is one wild country.” However, we ended up getting going again, so it must have worked.

Joe Crozier was my coach in New Brunswick in 1979. He was a great person and a really smart coach, but back in 1979, he was old school. We started the season 6-0 and we lost our seventh game 6-1 in Halifax, which was a three-hour drive back. I remember him bringing a little chair on the bus after that game. And instead of sitting in his seat, he put that chair in the front of the bus and faced us the entire way home and would not let us talk. He just stared at us to show how mad he was that we lost. When I was a player, I never understood that kind of stuff. I thought it was weird. But as I got older, I began to realize that it had nothing to do with us not being able to talk. Instead, it had everything to do with not being satisfied. We won six in a row and he did not want us to think it was ok to lose a game. He wanted to show us that he was unhappy that we lost a game. He did not care about the talking. It was, “Don’t be satisfied with your success, push to be even greater.” Years later I got that. I don’t even know if that was his intention, but that is what I take from it now.

Most of the bus rides were uneventful, but we used to look forward to them. We used to play cards all the time and we could not wait to get on the bus and just play cards. It was usually poker back when I was playing and we played for a lot of money – more than we had, which made it even more intense. After the game sometimes, you could not wait to get back on the bus because you wanted to get back to your card game.
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