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Chop Wood, Carry Water

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

"Chop Wood, Carry Water" is a known axiom inside the Carolina Hurricanes locker room, and it's now become the central theme of the team's new postgame award: an axe and a pail.

The ax, of course, represents chopping wood, as the pail represents carrying water.

Bill Burniston, the Canes assistant strength and conditioning coach, was last year introduced to the phrase, which has its roots in Zen philosophy, when he learned that assistant coach Steve Smith's son had "chop wood, carry water" tattooed on his arm.

"I thought that was pretty interesting, but I had never heard the term before, although I believe it's been around for a while," he said.

Burniston then discovered a book with the same title written by Joshua Medcalf. In it, Medcalf tells a story of a young boy who always dreamed about becoming a samurai archer. At one point in his life, he buys a one-way ticket to Japan and begins his schooling. The sensei, every day, had him chop wood and carry water, something everyone in the village did to survive.

"It's about falling in love with the process, that we have to surrender the outcome and appreciate the process," Burniston explained.

The Hurricanes added a number of graphical elements to their weight room over the summer, and "chop wood, carry water" was considered. Instead, head coach Bill Peters and Burniston conceived the team's new postgame award. Burniston introduced the ax and bucket to the team prior to the start of the season.

The ax travels with the Hurricanes from city to city, being handed around, player to player, with each victory. Peters initiated the ax distribution after the team's first win in Calgary on Oct. 20. The bucket, meanwhile, remains in the Hurricanes' weight room. Each player who is awarded the ax will have his jersey number stickered onto the bucket, which will serve as an ever-present reminder of the motto.

The blade of the ax is adorned with the Hurricanes primary logo. Covering the blade is a leather sheath with "Chop Wood" on one side and "Carry Water" on the other. The handle on the ax is fashioned out of a hockey stick, courtesy John Ufland of Requipd, who specializes in transforming broken hockey sticks into a number of other different accessories and tools.

"It's the symbol that we're working at all the little things that are going to make us successful," Burniston said.

The team, Burniston said, was immediately engaged with the idea of chopping wood and carrying water.

"Guys have bought in because they're doing the little things that make a big difference," he said. "On a daily basis, our guys are taking care of our bodies, getting our rest in, getting our recovery in, getting our workouts done, doing all the things that we can control. That's the most important thing: controlling what you can control."

Tweet from @NHLCanes: .@JeffSkinner gets the #Canes "Chop Wood, Carry Water" awards AND a picture with @DaleJr after tonight's win! #Redvolution

"To me, it just means doing the little things," said Jeff Skinner, who was awarded the ax after the Canes' 3-2 win over the Rangers on Oct. 28. "For an athlete, that group of things that you can control is something you have to take pride in and control to the best of your abilities. For me, that just means to keep doing the little things and do them the right way. In the end, things will pay off in the long run over the course of 82 games and hopefully longer."

The end result - wins, and ultimately a Stanley Cup championship - is what everyone is striving toward. But it's important to be mindful of the process and to continue to be mindful of the process, even when the results are achieved.

You must chop wood and carry water, so to speak, in order to achieve results, and when you achieve results, you must continue to chop wood and carry water.

It's an approach that the Hurricanes have animated into their newest postgame award and an approach that is evident in this organization from the top down.

"It's really been here for years," Burniston said. "When Ron Francis took over as GM, just talking about the fact that it is a process, that we have to continue to build through the draft and make sure we're bringing these young players along. I think the whole organization has bought into 'chop wood, carry water.'"

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