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Caps TravelBlog

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
Thu. Jan. 18, 6:15 p.m.

I just ate dinner in the press room here at RBC Center, home of some of the best press room food in the league. Among my dinner companions tonight were Capitals radio voice Steve Kolbe, and the legendary Chuck Kaiton, the only radio voice the Whalers/Hurricanes have ever had.

It was very entertaining to sit and eat and listen to Steve and Chuck talking shop. They discussed the best engineers in the league for visiting radio, the places that have dicey headphones and all sorts of fascinating radio play-by-play tidbits. Who knew Los Angeles had the “best cough box in the league?” Well, I do. And now you do as well.

It’s about an hour until the opening face-off here tonight. After the game, another hour before we’re at the airport. Then about an hour in the air, and a little more than an hour after that to make the drive from Dulles to stately Vogel manor in Baltimore.

I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on this travel blog, which I greatly appreciate. Thanks to all who took the time to send e-mails; I will eventually reply to them, at least the ones I actually received. I apologize for the ones that fell between the cracks. A couple fans at the hotel even mentioned some kind words about the blog as I left to get on the bus this afternoon. Big thanks to Kolbe, by the way, for that afternoon wake-up call. He read about my alarm clock woes and put in a call to make sure I was on the bus. I was up and about when he called, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

They’re a good and fun bunch of guys to travel with – even more so when the team is winning – but I am also anxious to get home. After the game tonight, our crew will embark upon its 24th bus ride and its fifth airplane flight in the past nine days.

To paraphrase Dave Dudley, “nine days on the road, and I’m-a-gonna make it home tonight.”

Thu. Jan. 18, 9:45 a.m. Raleigh

 Bubble hockey at Ottawa practice rink
 Bubble hockey at Ottawa practice rink
  Ray Emery banner in Scotiabank parking lot
Ray Emery banner in ScotiaBank parking lot
 
 'Canes Cup banner
 Jeff Schultz
 Jeff Schultz
 Steve Eminger
 Steve Eminger
 Work bench with tools for stick work
Work bench with tools for stick work 
 John Deere ice resurfacer in Carolina
 John Deere ice resurfacer in Carolina
 Snowy Raleigh
 Snowy Raleigh
I overslept because the clock in my hotel room was about 35 minutes slow, but I’m going to hitch a ride to the rink with Tarik. He got stuck in Cincinnati last night, because he missed his connecting flight. He got out of Ottawa late because of weather issues.

There are weather issues here today, too. Woke up to find that it had snowed overnight and we’ve got some iciness and slush and what the weather-people types love to refer to as “wintry mix,” as if it were in a bowl on the coffee table and you could just grab yourself a handful.

Last time I was here (Nov. 9), Corey Masse and I missed the bus to the morning skate because we were in line to get coffee when it left. We hailed a cab and told beat the bus to the rink, even though the big vessel had at least a five-minute head start. What a triumph that was. Some of the cabbies in these parts must watch a lot of NASCAR.

Anyway, Tarik is going to pick me up in a few minutes. We’ll get some caffeine fortification and go on over to the rink for the morning skate. Seems surreal to think we were doing the same exact thing at the same exact time in Tampa a week ago, and that I’ll be back at home tonight and in the office tomorrow.

We're told this morning that Mike Green's condition is improving. The swelling is down and he is doing better. Jeff Schultz has arrived from Hershey and he will be on the ice this morning.

The final installment in the roommate series comes from Olie Kolzig:
“The key to a real good roommate is a guy who has similar interests, and who has the same patterns: getting up, going to sleep, where to eat, things like that. You don’t want opposites as roommates because you have one guy who doesn’t sleep and one guy who likes to sleep, it can really disturb a guy’s preparation.

“I’ve had Sergei Gonchar, I’ve been with Mike Liut, I had Sylvain Cote, I spent a little bit of time with Dale Hunter. Dale Hunter would go out on the road with just a toothbrush in his pocket. In his last season of his career, he wore the same sports coat every game. It got to the point where near the end of the year we were getting off the bus and I was fooling around with him and I grabbed him by his arm, and I literally ripped the arm right off his coat. Everybody thought that was the end of it. Well, he had his mother-in-law sew it back on and he wore it the next game.

“The majority of my time was probably with Adam Oates and Jeff Halpern. They were both guys who loved the game like I do, and we talked about the game a lot. We had similar patterns. There wasn’t any question about having to sneak around because I get up earlier than Oatesy or Halpy. We always got up at the same time. We ate breakfast together and dinner together. It was real comfortable for me and comfortable for them. Now of course, I’m by myself. And it’s even better. I don’t have to worry about waking anybody up."

Roommate horror story:
“Like I said, I was roommates with Mike Liut. And Lootie was an old school guy who was like, ‘Rookie do this, rookie do that. Don’t touch the remote.’ Sylvain Cote was probably the toughest guy to room with, just because he never slept. And if he did fall asleep, he always slept with the TV on and the remote sitting on his chest. He was a tough one to sleep with. He had a bit of a flatulence problem, too. They didn’t have Febreze back then.

“But really, all the roommates I’ve had have been great.”

Wed., Jan. 17, 11:45 p.m. Raleigh
Tonight’s the last night we’ll have to sleep in a hotel bed. They’re all comfortable, but they’re not home. A few of us just came back from a nice dinner and I’m just checking the scores and going to sleep.

The Canes won the Stanley Cup last season, but it’s all basketball all the time on the TVs in most nearby establishments. I like coming here, though. The building is usually loud, and I like Carolina’s radio/TV/PR/media people as much as any in the league. Good thing too, because we see them a lot.

As we prepared to board the plane from Ottawa to Raleigh this afternoon, we were in the midst of some strangeness. One of the airport security types was yelling and cursing at and elderly French-Canadian couple. Apparently the gentleman had committed an egregious breach of airport etiquette when he placed his bags on the conveyor belt. Not only had he not allowed for the standard three feet between items, be placed his bag ahead of one or two of the others already on the belt. Despite the seriousness of his offense, he managed to avoid a prison term … this time.

There were lots of grim countenances and stern visages among the security types at the airport there. These people wanted to be sure to let you know they were damn serious about their business and they were going to do their job (rifling through your stuff) thoroughly and vigorously. This led to a problem for me.

My friends know me as a bit of a caffeine connoisseur, if not addict. I’m like Barney Fife in that I always carry a silver bullet with me. Barney’s went with his gun and he kept it in his shirt pocket. Mine is a Starbuck’s DoubleShot, and I keep it in my computer bag. When I need a jolt, I got to the silver bullet. And then I replenish it with another so I’ve always got one.

My “silver bullet” was confiscated at the Ottawa airport. The powers that be informed me that it would be included with all the other confiscated contraband, and that I might get it back later. Or, I might not. I did not.

In hindsight, I should have offered to guzzle it on sight. Alas, I’ll need to get a new one in Raleigh.

Wed., Jan. 17, 11:30 a.m. Ottawa
By the time our traveling crew returns to its own beds in the greater Washington area in the wee hours of Friday morning, we will have been on the road for parts of 10 days. This is the longest road trip of the season, in terms of both time and number of games. At this point however, it seems even longer. That’s a direct by-product of having lost each of the first three games on the trip. Winning can make a long trip seem shorter, and losing can really make it drag on.

By the way, I’m looking forward to heading back in a southerly direction. It’s minus-6 here right now, and that’s with the conversion to Fahrenheit. That reminds me of a few favorite lines from my own personal poet laureate, the estimable Mr. Tom Waits:

“… and the hawk had his whole family out there in the wind,
and he's got a message for you to beware
cause he be kickin' your ass in, in a cold-blooded fashion,
dishin' out more than a good man can bear …”

I’m typing this from the SensPlex, the Ottawa practice rink that features four sheets of ice. The Caps are here and are on the ice for a morning practice before we depart for Raleigh this afternoon. This place is very close to ScotiaBank Place, and in fact the Capitals had to dress at ScotiaBank before busing over here for practice. Afterwards, we’ll go back to get dressed and bet back on the bus for the trip to the airport.

To make matters even worse, Caps defenseman Mike Green suffered a lower body injury when he blocked a Christoph Schubert shot early in last night’s game with Ottawa. Green gamely skated a few more shifts, but was limping badly after the game. He definitely won’t play tomorrow night against Carolina, and the Caps are planning to recall defenseman Jeff Schultz from Hershey of the AHL. The Caps don’t believe that Green suffered a broken bone, but they originally thought the same thing about John Erskine and Bryan Muir, who are both currently on the sidelines because of broken bones in their feet.

Unfortunately for Green, his injury casts a large shadow of doubt on his availability for next week’s YoungStars game, part of the NHL’s All-Star week festivities. Green was just named to the YoungStars team over the past weekend.

Green’s injury came a month to the day after Erskine’s. To have three defensemen (and one PR guy) sidelined with the same injury at the same time is quite uncanny.

With that, here’s today’s roommate treatise, featuring one of Washington’s healthy defensemen, Jamie Heward:
“Letting me having control of the [television] controller. I want to watch whatever I want to watch on TV and he just has to sit there. With Johnny and I, that’s a power struggle. It’s not always that easy. Being on the same schedule, not being too smelly, not being messy. You like to sleep at the same time, you like to eat meals at the same time. Especially for an old dog like me, you don’t want someone who is too wild and crazy that is going to be out all the time. Johnny and I are good that way.

“You are going to be together for 40 games on the road for sure, and then you’ve got other days off and other practice days, so you could be together upwards of 70 or 80 fays on the road. You’ve got to make sure good friends first of all, and that you get along. It’s just give and take; you don’t always have to have things your own way.

“I have Brent Johnson right now, and I would have to say that he has probably been my favorite roommate over my career. Personality wise, we’re very similar. We like the same things. I started out with Greenie last year, and he was pretty good too, because I could boss him around.

Roommate horror story:
“I have had a couple guys early in my career that were just kind of off the wall. They would do strange things. They wouldn’t sleep in the afternoon for game days, they were messy, had stuff all over the place, left the bathroom in a mess. They would bring their buddies back to the room, and it just wasn’t a good relationship between two guys. But I don’t have anything really bad, or anything too crazy."

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 6:45 p.m. Ottawa
 Frosty Ottawa
 Frosty Ottawa
 Brent Johnson
 Brent Johnson in warm-ups
 Steve Kolbe
 Steve Kolbe in warm-ups
 Scotiabank center ice
 Scotiabank Place center ice
It’s frosty here. I mean really frosty. The Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir just informed me that the conversion rate puts the local temperature at about minus-4. The line at both the drive-up window and inside the nearby Tim Horton’s are lengthy and have been all day.

We were watching some kids play a youth hockey game here prior to the Caps-Sens game, and it’s amazing to see the difference in the quality of play here as compared to watching kids of a similar age playing back in the States. These kids were skilled and smart, and there were a lot more of them on the bench than in a lot of the games I’m used to seeing.

When we were driving in from the airport yesterday, I noticed there was a local street named after the singer Paul Anka. It’s hardly fair to honor a guy who foisted the schlocky horror of “You’re Having My Baby,” on an undeserving public back in the mid-1970s. Forget what Blender magazine might have said; that song is easily in the top five of the worst ever.

I deducted a lot of points when I saw that, but the locals got a few back when I noticed that the street leading into the arena here is named after Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, who helped the old Ottawa Senators to a Stanley Cup championship nearly 100 years ago. Bravo.

The Caps and Sens are on the ice for pregame warm-ups as I type.

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 9:30 a.m. Ottawa
Yeah, it’s cold here. And yeah, there’s snow on the ground. But I’ll be dining in splendor at Tim Horton’s this morning, and I watched a lot of hockey on TV last night. South Florida can’t boast such amenities. The beach was nice, but I love being in Canada. I’m one of those people who believes the NHL Draft should rotate between the six Canadian cities, just because the people are so into it and the media coverage of the event up here is second to none. All the rounds are televised.

Time to head over to the rink in a few minutes, and by this stage of the trip things are taking on a bit of a “Groundhog’s Day” effect, beach/snow elements notwithstanding. You wake up and wonder what day it is and what city you’re in, and there can be a moment’s panic if you think you might be late for the bus. The bus waits for no man. A 10:15 bus leaves promptly at 10:15. Very early on in my “career” a very wise hockey man whose family has logged many years in the game told me this: “In hockey, if you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late.” Sage advice.

A year ago today, we were waking up in Phoenix with no idea what that day might hold in store for us. And so it is today here in Ottawa. Morning skate and a game to be sure, but it’s all a blank canvas full of possibilities.

Today’s roommate viewpoint comes to you from Matt Pettinger:
“The last two years I have been roommates with Matt Bradley. I guess we’re sort of similar personalities, so we get along fairly well. It’s tough because in the afternoons I don’t sleep too, too much, maybe tops for an hour. Whereas Brads likes to shut ’er down for the full two hours. We argue a bit on that.

“Two o’clock we’ll start in, and I’ll go, ‘No, 2 to 3:45.’ I’ll get it down usually to about 3:45. We’re friends off the ice as well, and I guess there are little things that you do that are common courtesy. If the guy is sleeping, you turn the TV down and let him get his sleep. You wake each other up if there is a bus to catch or a practice to attend. You’d have to do something really bad to be a bad roommate.”

Roommate horror story:
“No, but I know there is one guy on the team who seems to get up in the middle of the night. I’ve heard horror stories from a couple of guys that he gets up and says, ‘They’re smoking us out! They’re smoking us out!’ He thinks there’s a fire in the hotel. It’s three in the morning and the roommate doesn’t know what’s going on. ‘They’re coming! They’re coming!’ Just silly quirky stories like that, guys who sleepwalk or sleep talk and scare the crap out of their roommates.”

Monday, Jan. 15, 2:30 a.m. Ottawa

We’re at ScotiaBank Centre now, and the players are dressing for an afternoon practice. We went from 81 degrees and sunny in Florida this morning to sub-freezing temperatures and snow in Ottawa. The winter has been so mild here that the Rideau Canal has yet to freeze over.

This is the first snow I’ve seen since we left Calgary on Halloween morning.





Monday, Jan. 15, 11:15 a.m. Somewhere in the air over North America

We’ve been in the air headed toward Ottawa for an hour now. Upon landing, we’ll proceed directly to the rink for practice, and will check into the team hotel afterwards.

Breakfast was waiting for us when we got on the plane. Bagels, muffins, egg sandwiches, fruit and the like were on the bill of fare. When lunch or dinner is served, there is generally a choice of two or more options.

The flight is three and a half hours, and guys have different ways of passing time while they fly. There is a lot of sleeping going on around me right now, but some of us media types are working. Some guys are watching movies on portable DVD players, and some guys are reading. There are usually a couple of card games going on, too. Euchre is the front-of-the-plane game and poker is played in the back.

Lawrence Nycholat on roommates:
“I think the things about a good roommate is someone who you can meet in the middle with about what kind of eating and sleeping schedule you have. Someone who is easygoing, fun to be with on the road, someone who doesn’t mind going out for a nice meal, and keeping things light no matter what the situation.

“Over the years I have had tons of good roommates. I had Mark Wotton [in Hershey] last year. He was a great guy to be with on the road. He never got too rattled about anything, so he was easy to get along with. This year, Chad Wiseman was another guy who keeps things real light and he is a pretty funny guy. We had a lot of fun. In Hartford, I had Bryce Lampman for two years. He was a younger guy who was a lot of fun to be around. We had a good time when we were on the road together. Over the years, I have had a lot of good roommates.”

Roommate horror story:
“I had one roommate who was kind of a sleepwalker. I think he had gotten up to go to the bathroom and he was trying to get into the wrong bed when he came back. I think that’s the worst one I’ve had so far.”

Sunday, Jan. 14, 11 p.m. Hollywood
Sunday was a day off, a day or rest and relaxation for the entire travel party. Sleeping, golfing, fishing, tennis, beach-walking, swimming and football-watching were the most common activities of the day. A few guys went out for a beating at the dog track on Sunday, too.

Four of the Caps’ Canadian contingent – Kris Beech, Matt Bradley, Mike Green and Matt Pettinger – went fishing together. After landing a small kingfish, the foursome chopped up their catch to use as bait in a bid for something bigger. With six lines in the water, they hit on one, landing an eight-and-a-half foot, 300-pound hammerhead shark. The four players took turns reeling in the big catch, and it took about 30 minutes to get the shark onto the boat.

We hope to have a picture of the prize fish at some point before we return.

While the Canadians were conquering the sea life, the Russians were being conquered. Both Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin suffered jellyfish stings during their forays into the waters of Hollywood Beach here.

On Sunday night, the team convened at a local eatery for its annual rookie dinner, so named because the team’s rookies foot the bill for everyone’s dinner and drinks. Ironically, this year’s rookie dinner came on the exact same day (Jan. 14) as last year’s, which was held while the Capitals were in Phoenix.

Brooks Laich was one of those who had to shoulder the bill for last season’s rookie dinner.

“There was me, Ovie, Shaone Morrisonn and Nolan Yonkman,” he remembers, noting the three others who helped him pay the tab. “We had a good crew. Guys are really looking forward to it. Last year was an awesome time. It cost the rookies a little bit of money (about $6,800 each). Everyone goes through it and it’s an awesome time. I look back on last year with great memories. We had a fun time, some great laughs and it will probably be the same this year.

“It’s a good tradition, a good team bonding thing and I think everyone looks forward to it. The older guys make it fun. You go out, you have a nice meal, you have a couple of drinks, tell a story or two and have some laughs. It’s a rite of passage. Guys have a lot of fun with it.”

Green, Lawrence Nycholat and Jakub Klepis absorbed the bill for this year’s rookie dinner.

Glen Hanlon on roommates:
“I think compatible schedules is most important. If you wanted to sleep for 45 minutes in the afternoon and the other guy didn’t want to sleep, or if he wanted to sleep for three hours, that was important. And how many broken noses the other guy had so he is not snoring. And then it came down to age and things in common. At a certain point in time, instead of watching MTV you started watching the news at night before you went to bed.

“I don’t think I ever had a roommate that I was with forever. I roomed with George [McPhee] for a while in New York, and Mike O’Connell for a while in Detroit. Maybe I wasn’t in one city long enough. It’s just my philosophy, but I don’t pick the players’ roommates, I let them pick. I don’t like forcing people to be with other people. It’s just so hard when you’re living together if you are not happy with that person’s timetable.

Roommate horror story?
“I don’t recall any. I really don’t recall any. I wish I could think of some, but I can’t.”

Sat. January 13, 6:30 p.m. Sunrise
center ice at BankAtlantic CenterWe’re about an hour away from the opening face-off here at BankAtlantic Center. The Caps will dress the same 20 players tonight as they did in Tampa on Thursday, but there will be a minor change in the lines tonight, and I had a conversation with Caps coach Glen Hanlon about the philosophy of skating on the morning of game days, something the Caps did not do today.

“We might shift a couple of lines,” says Hanlon. “We might move Brashear and Laich around a bit. That’s going to be the one flip; we’ll flip the two left wingers.”

Hanlon on the morning skate:

“It has had a positive effect by not skating. I’m not concerned about that. We’re trying to have more of these and reinforce it with wins. We don’t feel as coaches that it is necessary to come down. From the sound of things, [St. Louis Blues coach] Andy Murray has forced his players not to come down on mornings and I think he has been praised for it.

“I think the Russians and Europeans brought it here in ’72. They were skating in the mornings, and it had never been seen before. So the North Americans shifted it around. Now when we have optional [skates], none of the Europeans go to them.

“In speaking with [Caps physiologist] Jack Blatherwick, there is no benefit to them. In fact the bit of energy that you do use up, you don’t recoup for the night. As far as coming down and warming up and stretching out, you have lost all of that by the time you have gone back and had your rest. It’s another 82 times of putting on your equipment. I think the only benefit that it does have on the road is that time is a little long on your hands, and it can make for a long day [if you don’t skate]. But for us, where we were situated, it made more sense not to come down. We practiced late [on Friday] and we’ve played a lot of hockey lately. For us, less is better we think.”

Hanlon’s mention of “where we were situated” is worth noting. The Caps are staying on the beach, about 45 minutes from BankAtlantic Center. Where only four players took the team bus to the rink for the game in Tampa, all the players were on the bus for the rink tonight. In Tampa, you can walk or take a short cab ride to the arena, such is not the case here.

Sat. January 13, 3:00 p.m. Hollywood
It was nice to be able to sleep in today, and even nicer to wake up to fabulous weather here on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. A lot of the guys took advantage of the morning off and took a walk on the beach or a quick dip in the ocean, which was pretty rough when we were eating breakfast this morning.

The players are having their pregame naps now, and I just awakened from a short snooze of my own. The All-Star and Young Guns rosters have been announced, and Sidney Crosby went through a whole period of hockey against the Philadelphia Flyers without picking up a point. The folks of Steeltown must be wondering, “What’s wrong with Sid?” At breakfast this morning, we put the over/under on how many points he’d rack up today at six. Still 40 minutes to go.

Ben Clymer on the qualities of a good roommate:

“Number one, they can’t snore. That’s just no good. That’s key. Somebody has to have a similar routine to you as far as when they like to sleep in the afternoons and stuff like that. I’ve roomed with Chris Clark since I’ve been here. We’ve got it down pretty pat as far as when we get up, and when we take a nap in the afternoon. It works pretty good, we’re both pretty easygoing and we hardly ever argue over the remote.

“I wouldn’t want to be rooming with someone with completely polar opposite interests. You can be sitting there and feeling like a guest in your own room sometimes. Over the course of a season, you spend a lot of time with that person. You need to be able to be relaxed and have a good time, and yet do the things that you need to do to be prepared for the game.”

Roommate horror story:

“We sent my roommate to the minors when I was with Tampa once. And then I got bounced around. It took me I think two roommates to find another [permanent] roommate. One roommate didn’t sleep in the afternoon, and that was a problem. The other one was just annoying. Then I ended up rooming with Nolan Pratt, who still plays for Tampa, for the rest of my stay there. He is actually a lot like Clarkie. He is an easygoing guy and it was good. Once you get set into a routine, it’s almost like you’re not on the road because it is all so similar.”

Fri. January 12, 10:00 p.m. Hollywood
View from the rrom
 
We got into South Florida late in the afternoon. We were greeted by good news: we learned that Mike Green has been named to the Young Guns Game, a showcase for the NHL’s promising young players that is held the night before the All-Star Game.

After getting settled in our hotel, several of us took a cab into town for a nice dinner. We dined outside, mixing the sights and sounds of the street and the fine weather with a fine Italian meal.

Now we’re (or I’m) back at the hotel, getting some work done. Tomorrow’s morning skate has been cancelled; the guys have had enough ice lately and Friday’s practice ended in mid-afternoon.

Here’s Caps captain Chris Clark’s take on the roommate thing:

“I’m rooming with Clymer right now and it has been great. What makes us the same is that we get up at the same time, we go to sleep at the same time, our pregame naps are at the same time. We have a pretty good schedule where we just happen to do everything at the same time. We got throw together last year, but he has been one of the best I’ve had.

“Benny is a mature guy. He’s hockey-oriented, and he is thinking about the game and not doing other things – staying up late and those other things that can maybe take away from the game the next day. He has been great. Sometimes I like to get on the road and get some sleep that I am not getting back at home with the kids, and it works out well.”

Roommate horror story:

“I had one when I was with Calgary, when I was going up and down [between the minors and the NHL]. It was the snoring. That drives me nuts. I couldn’t take it. I don’t know if any guys on our team are big snorers, but that would drive me nuts, especially if you don’t get to sleep before the other guy.”

Fri. January 12, 2:00 p.m. Tampa
The morning after last night’s 5-4 loss to the Lightning dawned bright, sunny and warm here in Western Florida. We were able to sleep late, get some coffee and some food before checking out of the hotel shortly after noon and catching the bus over to the arena.

 Kolbe's notes
 Some of Steve Kolbe's Notes
The Caps are practicing as I type this, Tarik El-Bashir is conducting his washingtonpost.com chat right next to me, and Dick Butkus (aka Steve Kolbe) is seeking an area without so many shadows so he can star prepping for tomorrow's game against the Panthers. We’ll catch a plane to the other side of Florida as soon as everyone is showered and dressed.

The big news today is the two-year contract extension for goaltender Brent Johnson. Since Johnny is in the fold for two more seasons, he’ll be our go-to guy for today’s road roommate feature.

“In the NHL I have only had two roommates,” says Johnson. “My rookie year in the NHL I had Bryce Salvador in St. Louis. It was great, because the best thing about a good roommate is timing.  Everyone has a system they go through, when they wake up and all that. Now I have [Jamie Heward]. Hewie and I get along so well. We know when the other guy is going to get up. The alarm is always set for this time, and then it is reset for when Hewie gets up. It’s perfect. Everything works on a system, and that’s the most important thing, the timing, I would say.

“On the road, Hewie and myself like to go have dinner together. And then when we come back we’ll go see a movie or something, if we have time. So if we split up, it’s harder to adjust. It gets a little screwy. I think most roommates stick together and have dinner together.”

No roommate horror stories for Johnson, who actually flew solo in the roommate department during part of his stay in St. Louis.

“No,” he says, when asked the horror story part of the question. “I was by myself for a few years in St. Louis. It was nice, but I like having a roommate. It’s tough when you’re by yourself. It’s good having another guy there just to know what time you have to be in a certain spot. Maybe you didn’t see something on the board, and you can ask Hewie. If you’re on your own, you might think, ‘I think I saw that on the board,’ and then you wind up rushing for the bus.”

Thu. January 11, 7:30 p.m. Tampa
Hockey BayAlmost opening face-off time here at St. Pete Times Forum. Only four players rode the team bus over from the hotel tonight, so must of the players either cabbed or walked over early. Hopefully that means they’re chomping at the bit to get it going here against the Lightning.

As one of the “features” of this eight-day road blog, we’ll bring you the thoughts of several NHL players and former NHL players on what goes into being a good road roommate and who some of their personal favorite roommates might have been. We also asked about roommate horror stories, with the promise not to name names. Unless the guy wants us to name the names.

Here’s what Brian Pothier had to say:
“The best thing about a roommate is if he is on the same schedule as you. He naps at the same time for the same length of time. You get up in the morning at the same time, and if you actually like the guy it’s helpful, too.

“The best roommate I ever had over the years was Mike Fisher [in Ottawa]. I had him for three years. We got along real well, had a lot in common and had the exact same schedule, so it worked out pretty good.

Roommate horror story:
“My first or second year in training camp I had a European kid. His time schedule was all off. He was up in the morning at 3 o’clock making calls and talking loud, turning on lights. I’ve had some inconsiderate guys here and there."

Thu. January 11, 1 p.m. Tampa
Beautiful day here in Tampa, and the players have just returned from the morning skate. They’ll eat the team meal in the hotel here together, grab a nap and head back over to the Forum for tonight’s game.

I’m sending some photos, but I think they’re pretty brutal. That’s what happens when you give a writer a camera. Maybe the learning curve will kick in before I get back next week.

 Big news from practice this morning is that Richard Zednik  skated with the team and looked very good to these eyes. I’d be surprised if we saw him in game action before the all-star break, but you never know.

The Caps’ scouting crew is in town for their January meetings, and it’s always good to see all those guys again. I’m off to meet Nate Ewell and Paul Rovnak for lunch, and then do the Caps Report gig. More later.


Wed. January 10 Tampa

The Caps landed in Tampa Bay shortly before 6 p.m. on Wednesday night. After fighting through the downtown rush hour traffic, the traveling troupe checked into its hotel and headed out for some dinner.

There’s a decent hockey bar called “Hattrick’s” just a few blocks from the rink, so a few of us headed over there to eat dinner and watch some hockey. Three of the four games on the NHL’s Wednesday night schedule were visible, and there were many framed hockey jerseys on the walls.

After renewing acquaintances with some old hockey friends, we headed back to our rooms. I did a little work on the game day preview and hit the pillows immediately thereafter.

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