With some teams, the healthy scratches have nicknames like the black aces. These are the players who every game day stay out when the players skating for the night have headed home. They usually face an intense practice to maintain their conditioning, but without hope of playing that night.
In San Jose, there’s a bit more fun going on. Each of the players who skated in Los Angeles Tuesday morning and in San Jose this morning were wearing dorsal fins taped to the top of their helmets.
Why? Well, the theory is they’re identified like race horses in deciding who skates the fastest and has the best practice. The fins feature the players’ number and one player had blinders attached to the sides of his helmet.
It’s all in the name of fun and keeping things light hearted in a tough situation. Skating your hardest game in and game out while not part of the regular lineup can be difficult for players. Being able to still perform your best, but finding a way to have a little fun lightens up the routine.
The initial award winner was center Curtis Brown, who has missed a bulk of the season, but just came Injured Reserve with a hand injury. The reward for being the day’s winner follows a NASCAR tradition. Brown received a sponsor sticker for his helmet and there was a corresponding hat as well. Brown’s logo was a UPS marker to go along with their slogan, “What can Brown do for you?” What else would there be for a player named Brown?
Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh was the winner on Wednesday morning, but won’t know what he’ll receive until Friday’s skate -- if he’s still part of the group.
Obviously, all of the participants would like to shed the fins and play in a game soon. Brown could be the first as he just came off an extended stint on IR. Brown hasn’t missed this many games (25) in his National Hockey League career.
“Being hurt and not even being an option is tough,” Brown said. “The trainers and strength and conditioning coordinator have done what they can.”
While he wasn’t happy being on IR, Brown likes the possibility of rejoining his teammates for the stretch run instead of being hurt and missing the playoffs. Brown has a realistic outlook on the situation.
“I got hurt and then a couple of days later, (Florida’s Richard) Zednik had the skate slash his throat,” Brown said. “What I had is small in the big picture.”
NEXT GAME The Sharks will play hosts to Minnesota, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday night at HP Pavilion. The game will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com