For my latest updates on what California hockey players are doing in the pro, college and junior ranks, please check out this link:
I had an opportunity recently to interview Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios, who played two years of Bantam hockey and one of Midget in Southern California.
Part of the deal was getting to watch he and a host of other NHL players go through TR Goodman’s famously torturous workouts.
Cheli’s work ethic has to be seen to be believed. When the Wings announced the 46-year-old had signed for another season, many of my hockey-playing pals responded with astonishment. I’m not taking that bait. He is one of the fittest people I’ve ever seen.
Cheli also is as focused and driven of an athlete as I’ve seen in any sport in 20 years of covering pro, college and high school athletics.
What struck me most about his training was the pace he maintained despite continuous repititions. After a summer of that, I hardly think training camp is a challenge for him.
How much longer can he play? In comments to the Detroit media last week he said he realized the Wings have a number of young defensemen they want to give minutes to this season – likely at his expense. But no matter how he tries to convince himself that’s OK, I got the impression it really isn’t.
Will he really play until he is 50? I truly think he could.
Cheli is a warrior, and like him or hate him, he lives to compete – against his body, and against others.
The locker room, that is.
There are several rules of “respecting the room.”
It’s true the that the sports locker room has Vegas-like qualities – what happens there, stays there. And nowhere is that truer than hockey, where teams’ inner sanctums are considered sacred territory. Whether it’s a college hockey locker room or an NHL room, the principal remains the same.
A second rule is followed to the letter, usually a “C” or an “A”. When one of the team’s captains speaks, everyone listens. More than any other sport, the captaincy is serious business in hockey. That’s reflected in the real estate they occupy – usually in the middle of a row of locker stalls. In hockey it’s not about prominence, it’s about influence.
A third rule is there is no hiding. Perhaps this is why the stalls face each other – accountability. A premium is placed on it, and there are few better measures of it than eye contact.
One more rule. DO NOT step on the logo in the middle of the carpet in the room.
Thursday night I was high above the Staples Center ice, where the LA Kings are playing host to the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Kings rode a burst of three goals in 6 minutes during the second period and the outstanding goaltending of rookie Erik Ersberg to a 4-0 victory.
The action wasn’t limited to the ice, however. The arrival of the Coyotes means the return of a certain hockey player that some of you might have heard of … Wayne Gretzky, as well as a staff that would comprise a pretty good team.
Consider that the Phoenix coaching staff includes Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr, possessor of five Stanley Cup rings, former defenseman Ulf Samuelsson – a two-time Cup winner, former forward Rick Tocchet, who also has a Cup and four All-Star appearances on his resume. But it doesn’t end there. If the Coyotes needed to make a change in net, they can always go with TV color analyst Darren Pang. If they want more toughness in the lineup, they can turn to radio analyst Louie DeBrusk. (A side note, why anyone in their right mind would want to mess with someone of his size is beyond me. But, as is often the case, tough guy translates well into nice guy off the ice.)And for good measure, Cammi Granato, the most recognizable U.S. women’s player was on hand.
… The press facilities at Staples Center are impressive, have an excellent view, and like everything else at that building, large! Interestingly, they’re substantially larger than those at the Ponda Center (yes, that’s what you get when you combine the Pond and Honda Center) in Anaheim.
While I’m comparing, the highest press box view I’ve ever had was in San Jose at the Shark Tank (proper name: HP Pavilion). Whomever coined the phrase bird’s-eye view probably covered a few games at the Tank. It’s not bad, it’s just up there, way up there.
A practice report is coming soon.
On the ice, Chris Pronger is an imposing player. The towering defenseman with a booming shot plays with an edge, and some might contend that he likes to keep his elbows as sharp as his skates.
Off the ice – it’s a completely different story. I had the opportunity to talk to the man they call Prongs recently, and I came away impressed with his intelligence, candor and sense of humor after another of Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle’s “old-school” practices. To give you a little context, this interview took place while he was serving a suspension and while he had a mouth full of stitches as his broken jaw heals.
We covered topics ranging from California’s climate to the hockey climate on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. And of course, the upcoming playoffs. Prongs returns from his suspension on April 6 for the Ducks’ final regular-season game, but it’s clear the playoffs are central on his mind.
Because I love the sport and have a lot of background covering it, that’s why!
I believe it’s a healthy thing for people to pursue their passions, and the book project I’m working on is one of them.
In this blog I will share my experiences dealing with players, coaches and administrators from the NHL, junior, college and youth ranks. I have come across many compelling stories and met many amazing people in the process.
To learn more about the book, visit www.palmtreesandfrozenponds.com
Join me for the ride!