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Blame the pants

by John Dellapina /
First of all, shut up, Rosen. Until you lace 'em up and get out there with us, get off Hradek's and my backs -- heaven knows we don't need anything else weighing us down.

As for Walter Gretzky, thank you. Clearly, the Father of the Great One practices what he preached to his ever-polite son: If you don't have anything nice to say about somebody, don't say anything at all.

I blame the pants.

E.J. and I were among the last "campers" to visit the hockey player's dream world that is the equipment truck parked outside the Las Vegas Ice Center yesterday. So we had to take what we could get -- which was a whole lot of amazing, spanking new gear. Unfortunately, all they had left were Byfuglien-sized pants. Since I'm more of Zuccarello-sized player, I felt like I was wearing a barrel around my waist when we ventured out for the one-hour practice/evaluation that will set the teams for the games that begin tomorrow at Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp.

Yeah, that's it. It was the pants that caused me to be among the last to finish the skating drills and to be heading North whenever the puck was heading South during the 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 games that coach Cap Raeder drew up on the board for us to play.

I am proud to report that I didn't bust any drills by making the wrong pass or going left when I should have gone right. But that was only because I was smart enough to get far back in the drill lines to watch others perform the elementary tasks first. I owe all the Mites, Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantams and Midgets I've coached over the years an apology because making sense of those basic instructions diagrammed on a coach's board is much harder than I ever thought.

So, apparently, is getting back to your skates after wiping out during a breakaway relay drill -- which is what I did upon failing to score on my one chance in that practice-closing contest. As I floundered around in the corner, my "teammates" on the grey squad (named after our jerseys, not our hair color), watched in helpless horror -- the next shooter couldn't take off until I got back to the blue line.

I never thought it was possible to be humbled on a hockey rink because I've never been under the illusion that I was any good at this game. But as Glen Sather once very impolitely said about classy veteran John MacLean, my "giddy-up doesn't giddy-up anymore."

I blame the pants.
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