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Checking In From The Road: Day Two

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild

 
 This is the scenic view out of the hotel in Calgary.
This week, I traveled along with the Wild for its three game trip through Northwest Canada. The original plan was to follow along with defenseman Shawn Belle during his first-ever NHL road trip.

Sure enough, Shawn was sent down to the Houston Aeros on Sunday, the day before we departed St. Paul for three Northwest Division cities, including Edmonton, which is Belle’s hometown.

So, we’ve changed on the fly. Wild.com will now offer a daily look at a seven-day road trip to give fans a look at what goes on in the air, at the rink and at mealtime. Each day, we’ll also finish up by talking to a different Wild player about a road trip related issue.

Tuesday was a game day, and the team follows a fairly strict schedule, which is documented on a trip itinerary courtesy of Wild media relations guru, Aaron Sickman.

Day Two

10:00 AM

 Right around 10:00 AM, the bus meets the players out in front of the hotel to shuttle to practice. The weather in Calgary today was a balmy -1° Centigrade, so a few players opted to walk to the Saddledome, which is only about a mile or two away.

I normally take the media bus, but Tom Reid and Bob Kurtz like to arrive at practice extremely early, and they don’t wait around for lowly web content writers. I was able to hitch a ride on the team bus, and took the seat behind Derek Boogaard. He’s even bigger on a bus than he is on television.

While on the subject of buses, here’s one of my pet peeves about the road. Outside every hotel, there is always a group of adult men congregating with jerseys and paraphernalia. Now, I’d like to hope that these guys are just getting autographs for their kids while they’re in school, but I have a sneaking suspicion that these items end up on EBay. I’m not sure how the players feel about it, but they always oblige and give their autograph.

Due to the fact that every player and staff member is required to wear a suit, and I’m fairly young and marginally fit, I’ve often been asked to sign items for these dudes. I can’t tell you how tempted I’ve been to oblige and then sign “Marty Moose” on a team signed jersey, but my conscience keeps getting the better of me.

11:00 PM

Sitting around at a morning skate can be relatively uneventful. The highlight is usually if the home team, which always skates first, uses up all of their allotted time prior to the Wild taking the ice. Most teams skate for about a half an hour, and then the scratches or injured players will stay on for another 15 or 20 minutes.

In Anaheim earlier this year, the entire Wild team sat on the bench as assistant coach Newell Brown worked Stanislav Chistov, Travis Green and Ian Moran to the very last minute of the Ducks practice time. This incensed Mario Tremblay, which caused the Wild to return the favor for Anaheim’s next visit.

Unfortunately, the Flames were perfect gentlemen today. No fireworks (pun definitely intended).

12:30 PM

The team makes its way back to the hotel, where a room is set aside for a team lunch. Most of the guys tend to eat light before the game, but they certainly have their options if they decide otherwise. This spread is not for the Atkins crowd, as it is heavy on pastas and potatoes. There is also steak, salmon, chicken, soup, salad, bread and even an ice cream bar.

4:30 PM

 alt
 The nototrious catwalk at the Pengrowth Saddledome stretches the width of the ice rink.
The team boards the bus to the rink about three and a half hours prior to the game. The media bus generally leaves around the same time, but if Jacques and the coaches decide to go on that bus, it may leave 20 minutes early – which was the case today. The bus was backing out as I walked out of the lobby, and luckily, I was able to jump on the bumper and ride like they did in the old days.

Actually, they did let me on, and luckily, Jacques and I are tight. Otherwise, they might have left without me! 

Most of the players get loosened up by playing a version of hackey sack with a soccer ball. The others tape up their sticks and do whatever else they do to prepare for a game. Ron Johnson, of FSN North, did a pre-taping with Mark Parrish.

5:00 PM

We arrive at the Pengrowth Saddledome, which is easily my least favorite arena of the 11 that I’ve been to. The atmosphere and the fans here are great, and it has some history attached to it. I even like the flame explosions after a Calgary goal.

The Dome would be fine except for one thing: the press box is actually divided into two sections – one on each side of the rink. That means, to access the other side, one must cross a rather thin catwalk that spans the width of the ice surface. I am petrified of heights, so the fact that there is just a small rail on each side, and this building is 23 years old does not help matters. In fact, it just makes it worse.

7:00 PM

It was game time, and things didn’t go so well. The Wild lost 5-2, and pushed my record on the road this

 alt
 The flame above ice level ignited five to many times on Tuesday night.
season to 0-2-0. I am really going to need to turn things around in Edmonton or we can forget about any more web updates from the road.

9:30 PM

The team wastes no time in getting out of town after a game. No more than 30 minutes after the final horn, the entire team is on the bus and bound for the airport.

From takeoff to landing, the flight to Edmonton from Calgary takes less than a half hour. This is nice after a loss, because it was a quiet plane ride. That didn’t stop me from eating two chocolate chocolate chip cookies prior to landing.

12:00 AM

Upon arrival at a beautiful Edmonton hotel, I couldn’t figure out why my key didn’t work. It dawned on me that there was a foul up when I heard a woman’s voice coming from inside the room. “Excuse me, this room is taken!”

Fortunately, the hotel had an extra room for me to bunk up in.

Nick Schultz had a throng of followers with him in Calgary, so we caught up with him following Tuesday’s morning skate to learn about his Calgary connections.

Wild.com: What is the extent of your connections to Calgary?

Schultz: Well, my brother lives here, and he’s kind of the first one that moved here. My wife, Jessica’s sister and her husband live here and they’re little girl. My brother just had a little one too.

A lot of my friends from back home moved out to Calgary to work. The economy’s a lot better here, so I have a lot of friends I went to school with, and this is kind of the closest place to home.

It’s nice to be with friends and family for sure.

You’re only here for basically a day and a half, so how do you divvy up your time for family and friends?

It was good. Yesterday, my brother and a bunch of friends came down to watch our practice. Some of them had never seen an NHL practice so it was neat for them to come down and see that. I just went over to his place for dinner.

It’s nice that my brother and his family are friends with Jessica’s family. Everyone gets along and they’re close too, so that makes it easy. We all get together and have a dinner and it’s nice to see my brother’s little girl for the first time. I only get to see the other nieces a couple times a year so it’s good to see them.

Talk about the hockey side, and what it’s like to play in a hockey town like this.

Ever since Calgary had their run, the fans here have been really good and supporting the team. The team’s done well for awhile. They hadn’t been doing well, and now they’re back on track and one of the better teams in the League. Since they increased the fans and filled the building, it’s been fun to come here and play in this atmosphere.

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