Many people are creatures of habit. There’s something comforting about our daily rituals. They give life predictability and structure which help us master daily tasks. No one is quite the slave habit as professional hockey player.
Strong personal discipline is essential to success. Players try to eat, sleep, practice and play at times that work in sync with their body clocks. Be it at home or on the road the players, team and staff all know what needs to be done.
At home players get to sleep and stay at their own homes. Single guys have only themselves to worry about; married players have home-life and in many cases young children that impact their lives as professionals. During homestands players wake at a fairly early hour. They eat at home or have a light breakfast at the rink prior to a 10:30 a.m. gameday morning skate. From 10:30 to 11:00 they go through a light skate, running simple drills and working on skills. Pro hockey players spend hours and hours working on their hockey sticks and fine tuning their personal equipment. Following practice the players make themselves available to the media. Journalists, TV and radio folks get this morning opportunity which they can put to work later in the day. Home team players will then head home or to a local restaurant for a ‘power lunch’. Nutrition is essential to a strong performance on the ice.
A hockey tradition is the afternoon nap. Players like to catch a few zzzz’s to power mind and body. Following the rest, players have a pregame snack and head to the arena. Once back at the familiar surroundings of the arena, players slowly ramp up to game time. They work on their equipment, stretch, relax with teammates. Come 7:00 p.m. it’s the on-ice warmups. As fans stream in the arena bowl comes to life. Full lights, loud music and the sounds of hockey fill the building. After 15 minutes on the ice players get final instructions and reminders from the coaching staff. The countdown clock in the dressing room gets closer and closer to 00:00. It’s at that time that the team leaves the room to confidence, even swagger. It’s their town, their fans and their home ice. Let the game begin.
Playing on the road is a bit of a different animal. For road games the visiting team leaves the day before the match. Teams will routinely practice at home then they fly to their destination. Arrival is usually around 5:00pm. Players usually head out in small groups or one large group for a nice casual dinner. Some guys have made arrangements to visit family or old teammates for dinner. The evening will end sooner enough then it’s back to the hotel to get rest.
Morning comes quick…it’s downstairs and a good breakfast. The team bus leaves for the rink around 10:15 a.m. for an 11:30 skate. The ritual continues with taping sticks and skate sharpening. On the ice there’s enough time to ‘feel’ the ice and figure out how the glass and boards respond to pucks. Drills and skills get special attention. By 12:30 p.m., it’s back to the hotel ... lunch followed by a nap. The bus leaves for the game around 5:00 p.m. There are special teams meetings … the powerplay and penalty kill squads get final reminders on opponent tendencies.
In the past few seasons pregame soccer circles with players working on quick feet and eye coordination has taken its place in the routine. This fun drill happens around 6:00 p.m. in the bowels of the stadium. Then it’s the pregame skate and final mental preparation. The puck drops at 7:38 p.m. and then it’s the real test. Win or lose, postgame it’s off to the next city for the next game.
Today the Sharks will have their routine impacted considerably. Rather than flying out the day before, the holiday break has made it necessary to fly out game day morning. The Sharks met up at the corporate terminal at 6:30 a.m. and departed for Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. Once landed in Arizona, the team will head to the arena for their morning skate. The team will have day rooms at the hotel for essential rest. After rest and snacks, the road ritual is full on. The game is the thing. Win or lose, the Sharks will head home immediately following the game. The big question that will be answered is how this change in schedule will impact performance. Barring the unknown this will be the only road game all season which will require a gameday flight. Will the break help or hinder? Tune in tonight on CSN-California or on KFOX to get the answer.