Stars fans, over the next month or so, I will be keeping a diary of my experiences at the 2012 IIHF Men’s World Championships. This is my first time playing for Team USA at any level, and believe it or not, it’s also my first trip overseas. During this time, I will be writing about hockey, travel, interesting experiences, and really anything that comes to mind. Hope everyone enjoys reading it!
Day 5 – Wednesday, May 2 – Helsinki, Finland
Another early morning today, but at least I’m getting more acclimated to the time change and I was able to fall asleep much quicker. It probably helped that I wasn't thinking about playing a hockey game today, just a travel day to Helsinki. I got up around 7 a.m. and might have hit snooze a couple of times – but who's counting really?? After making sure I had everything packed up and out of the hotel room, I ate a quick breakfast and loaded onto the bus for the hour-and-a-half drive to Arlanda Airport, just outside of Stockholm. Once we entered the airport, I was greeted by a very familiar friend to all hockey players (and many people in general)… Starbucks! It was a delicious taste from home and was very much enjoyed.
Once we boarded the flight, I took my aisle seat next to Jack Johnson of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had the window seat. As we were both sitting there watching people board, we prayed every time someone was near our seats that we wouldn’t have someone in the middle! I don't actually think anyone ever wants to sit there, do they? Anyway, the plane door closed and thankfully, we were able to spread out a little. Once we were situated, I noticed something I have never seen before… Jack and I were sitting in row 12, but the number plates above us skipped from 12 to 14. There was not a 13th row on the plane! Maybe there is some reasoning behind that, but I guess everyone believes 13 is an unlucky number. I thought I had seen everything on an airplane, but I guess not. After takeoff, it was a quick 40 minute flight to Helsinki.
After landing, the first thing I noticed was that we were not in a small town anymore. Helsinki was really big, and on the drive to the hotel, I noticed lots of historic and colorful buildings. Once we arrived at the hotel, I was relieved to see that the rooms were a little larger, and that my tiny cot (from Gavle, Sweden) was upgraded to just a small cot now. It was also great to be able to unpack, as we will be here for the rest of the trip.
In the afternoon, they had a lunch set up for us… they don't let you go hungry over here, that’s for sure! Outside of the meal area, I ran into Jamie Benn, who was getting off the elevator… it was good to see another Dallas Star around here! We then had a team video session before making our way over to the main arena, where we will be playing all our games. The arena is large and has very nice locker rooms, which is a plus, because I feel like some NHL arenas put visiting teams in their broom closets. At 6 p.m., we walked from our dressing room over to the practice rink, which gave me another first in my hockey career… we had to take an elevator (in full gear, mind you!) down a couple levels and into a small practice sheet. It was actually really neat down there, they had blown out the rock in the ground to form a cave-like area where they placed a modern hockey rink. Practice itself was an hour and it felt great to get the travel legs out of us.
Ending the long day of travel and practice, I ate a great dinner and headed back up to my room. It is a weird feeling to be 9:30 at night and still light outside, as in the spring and summer months, there are not many hours of darkness here, compared to the States. To unwind a little bit before bed, I watched American TV shows on my computer. It’s hard to watch TV here when I cannot understand anything that is being said, so it looks like Netflix and the Apple store will be my source of entertainment while in my room here.
More to come tomorrow, as we have practice and hopefully a chance to see some of the city...
PREVIOUS ENTRIES: DAY 1 & 2 , DAY 3 , DAY 4