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!
|Some of the colorful and historic buildings in downtown Helsinki |
Day 6 – Thursday, May 3 – Helsinki
With the tournament which officially getting under way (Friday), my body is finally used to the time change enough that I got a great night sleep and I’m not waking up at random times throughout the night anymore. The first step of the day was to get a good breakfast, and the whole team gathered in the large hotel dining room where all hotel guests eat, but we do have a separate defined area for our team to eat together. We all chat about random things and check our phones through Wi-Fi for news and information on things happening in the States while we were sleeping. Breakfast was good, and with a cup of coffee to go, it was back to my room before we head to practice later in the afternoon.
Once in my room, I had a number of options for things to do in order to kill a couple of hours. Today though, with the tournament about to start, it was all about getting rest so instead of heading out to the city, I decided to take an hour nap. This was one of the first naps I have had in a while, and it was exactly what my body needed at this point. Noon rolled around and it was time to head over to the arena for our only practice before our first game (Friday) vs. France.
After we arrived at the arena, it was a basic practice day for our group, but it was a little different as we were now skating on the main ice sheet where the games will be played. The arena itself is actually very nice. It has two seating bowls and is painted blue all over… probably could have guessed that, since Finland's colors are blue and white. The ice was pretty good too, which in some arenas, can be a problem. With good fast ice, we had an upbeat practice and went over a couple system plays we will be using. This brief time to practice is so important in a quick tournament like this, because any advantage you can gain in practice could really help later on. To end practice, we had a shootout for “fun” … which is never as much fun for the goalies, as we can never win.
|We found a great American-Style steakhouse inside the Radisson Blu hotel in downtown Helsinki. |
With practice over and everyone back at the hotel, dinner was next for the boys. A little tired of buffet-style meals, seven players and I decided to head out on the town for a sit-down dinner. We wanted something similar to what we could find in the U.S., so we asked around and found ourselves at the Radisson Blu Hotel. They have a restaurant called "Grill It!" where we were able to get a really good steak like we would back home. Afterwards, we walked around a bit while heading in the direction of our hotel. With a game early tomorrow at 12:15, it was a slow night for Team USA, so relaxing and resting is the most important thing for us right now.
To wrap up today’s blog, I'll give you a little insight on how small the world really is. Just a couple days ago, I met one of the other goalies and a guy fans have definitely come to know, Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings. As we were talking, a conversation started about where we grew up playing, and I told him how when I had just turned 6 years old, my parents bought a bakery in upstate New York. Once we relocated to the small town of Saranac Lake, New York, there was not much else to do in the winter, so I decided I was going to play hockey. To get an idea of where this is, it is just about nine miles down the road from Lake Placid, where of course, the Miracle on Ice in 1980 happened. Once I told Jimmy the name of the town, he mentioned that he grew up in Ogdensburg, also in upstate New York. Instantly, I knew the town and I remembered playing against them as a kid. So as it turned out, Jimmy and I grew up barely two hours apart from each other. He is a few years older than me, so I'm not sure we ever played against each other, but it’s crazy to meet someone with such a similar background… let alone meeting that person for the first time at an event like this half-way across the world.
More to come tomorrow after we take on France in our first game of the World Championships...
Catch up on previous entries here: Day 1 & 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5