Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Suspenders, Mud and Leaves

Today we had a morning skate, well I guess it was an afternoon skate because it was at 12pm. An ideal morning skate would be around 10am, so it gets you out of bed early, you get moving and have a few good meals before the game. Well things are run differently here. Then again we start the game at 830pm too so it's not so bad.

I tried something different today, one of our Dmen was not there today because he was seeing his dentist in Rouen after taking a puck in the teeth on the weekend so I took his suspenders for his hockey pants and set them up on mine, as opposed to using the traditional belt. I couldn't believe how much better it feels. The pants are so much looser and you are not so restricted. So I placed an order for my own suspenders, and knowing how things work with our team, they should be here in January haha.

Ben Quessandier after taking a puck in the teeth in Villard de Lans. Thanks for letting me use your suspenders at practice today!

In our rink there are 2 doors for the Zamboni, one on the side boards and one behind the net. The doors behind the net lead to the outside where it drops all the snow it collects, but the problem is that it has to drive through a bunch of mud to get there, leaving muddy tire tracks behind our net on a regular basis. Today not only were there tire tracks of mud, but from goaline to the blueline there was mud and leaves everywhere! Epinal has never been accused of having better ice than Rexall Place where the Oilers play on arguably the best ice in the world, but come on lets at least try to compete with some backyard rinks that your grandfather makes.

Time for a nap right now, then pre game meal before taking on Neuilly sur Marne in game 3 of Coupe de la Ligue.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Back from Villard with a Win

Saturday night in Villard de Lans was a "total team effort" it was "textbook style defense" and "our best players were our best players." Ok enough with the cliches, it was a huge win for us on the road. A very similar game to what we played last year in Villard, where we played very defensive and limited their scoring chances. Last year we won 1-0, this year we came away with a 4-1 victory! Our Captain Jan Plch (yes I agree, there should be a vowel in his last name), had 3 goals, his last into the empty net and Fab Leroy had the other. I was held off the score sheet but did progress in the plus/minus chart where I was +3. I am trying to take myself out of the race for the "Green Jacket" as I was sitting at -6 prior to the game (11-3 loss and 6-5 loss really hurt). A huge win and a fun trip all around!

Listening to the iPod and warming up before the game

After the game we made our way down to this small restaurant that looked like a cave, where we at a Tartiflette, one of my favorite French dishes and very popular in the French Alps where we were. This dish has potatoes, Reblochon cheese, and bacon. It is extremely popular at mountain restaurants during the ski season since it is savoury, high in calories and relatively easy to cook and keep warm for an hour or more without deterioration in quality. I love it!!!

This is the Tartiflette! It was very important to get all those Calories back after the game.

On the walk back to the bus we passed by a night club, as we continued past it and towards the bus we couldn't help but think how nice it would be to have a few beers and relax before heading onto the cramped bus. As a few of us got on the bus, we saw that nobody was there. Hmmmm.....? We headed back to the club and in the front window there were 5 of our teammates sitting at a table. They were thinking the same thing, so we walked in, and ordered a round. Pretty soon our whole team was in there having some laughs and putting hockey and family aside for a bit to enjoy each others company. The beers were "Mountain Prices" so that means cheap 2.50 euro.

At the Night Club (or in French "Boite de Nuit") after the game.
From Left to Right: Jan Plch, Peter Slovak, Jan Simko (All slovaks)

We made our way back onto the bus around 2am, and set off for Epinal. Since we don't have a sleeper bus, we have to find a way to get comfortable in our 2 seats. On this trip I brought a piece of workout equipment (the TRX) so I could rest my legs in the straps. It was very effective on the way up there to stretch my legs and for a quick nap, but on the way home I just could not stay comfortable.
Visualizing good D-Zone positioning on the way up to the game, with the help of the TRX

Option #2 for me was to move to the floor, where I slept from about 4:30am-6:30am in one of the most ruthless and tortures conditions a hockey player has ever faced. I will not go too much into detail, but let me just say this, when I awoke I found myself directly below the back end of Borislav Ilic, the man known as "Bora Caca." These conditioning will never be faced again "sans Gas Mask"
If I only would have stayed where I was in the TRX. Just below my legs is where I slept. To the right is me are the legs of Bora Caca.

It is Monday afternoon, and I will be leaving for practice here in about an hour. We had an optional workout this morning where only 6 of us were there. We played Jorky Ball for about 30mins, I jumped in for a game a Squash, then worked some on some Balance with Erwan. We have a few guys banged up right now and get back to game action in Coupe de la Ligue against Neuilly tomorrow at home.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Another One Bites the Dust!!!

I don't know if our house was built on an Indian Burial Ground or what, but we have now had 3 players terminated from our team who lived at 35 Rue de Remiremont. The first to fall was Chris Myhro, an American, then a few days ago it was the Slovakian Marek, and now the other American John Paulson. I really feel for Pauly, he was just settling into a groove here since his good friend/bad influence (Myhro) departed. Those two together were not a good combo and I think Pauly suffered from the "Myhro Hangover" as the damage done while he was here was irreversible.

Pauly's reaction after getting the news he would no longer play for the Dauphins, was to head outside and hack a few darts with a Whiskey in hand

I must go to sleep now as we travel to Villard de Lans tomorrow morning for a huge tilt. But I will add to this story on Sunday, along with a recap of our huge road win!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Marek's GONE!!!

Just to follow up on that last post about our Slovakian roommate Marek, ya well he's gone. I walked into his room this afternoon and he was lying on his bed, I looked around and noticed that all of his clothes and things were packed up and GONE! Pretending I didn't notice I said "ah hey Marek, did you want to go get fitted for your team jacket right now?"

Not sure if this had anything to do with last night? In all seriousness it was tough on him from the get go, the language barrier and all and coming from the Czech Extraliga (top league) to France where things are not as professional (off the ice) as they should be.

Before Marek left I was able to snap a few pictures!

Where the F_ _ _ is MAREK???

Found him! He is packing up his gear and outta here

Maybe he was just unhappy that he had to wear #30?
The French reporters are ruthless here, the guy plays one home game, scores 2 goals in the first period and they write this in the caption for the picture:

The Caption translated: 2 goal scorer in the 1st period, Marek Grill, was transparent in the next 2 periods.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Epinal vs. Amiens

Last night did not turn out how we had hoped at all. After a great 1st period where we led 3-1, some key defensive mistakes on our part put us down 4-3 heading into the third. Starting the period short handed, Amiens capitalized on the power play and then added another on a 3 on 1 break to make it 6-3 only 2 minutes into the 3rd period. Not long after they took a penalty and we went to work on the power play getting our 2nd pp goal (Salmivirta 1st period) of the night as I received a great pass from Jan Plch and one timed it 5 hole. We carried the play for the rest of the game but it was too little too late and lost the game 6-4 on home ice. It was not so much of Amiens playing a very strong game, it was more of us beating ourselves with some costly defensive errors, directly resulting in goals.

This is one of those pictures where you add the captions.
"Geez aren't you goona buy me dinner first? "

After the game there was nothing to celebrate but previous arrangements had been made to have a little get together at Lionel Simon's house to celebrate his 28th Birthday. A rather mellow evening, we stayed there for a few hours. Most of the guys relaxed with a few beers, I was driving and really didn't feel up for any beers anyways. The food I did not hold back on though and indulged in a few "Croque Monsieurs." This is a very tasty snack, originated here in France. It is a hot ham and cheese grilled sandwich with cheese melted on the outside. This tasty treat is found in all cafes in France and has been around since it first appeared on a Parisian menu in 1910. The story behind it is that a long time ago, French workers would take their sandwiches to work with them, some ham and cheese, and not having the luxury of a fridge or cooler, they would put their sandwiches by the radiator and the cheese would melt!

Traditional "Croque Monsieur"

Maybe that was too much information on a sandwich for everybody, but you can see I am very passionate about it haha! So at Lionel's house, his wife was making mini ones, I ate about 1000.

Since our games don't start until 8:15pm, we don't end up leaving the rink until about 1130pm, so having stayed at Lionel's house for a few hours I got back home around 1:45am. As I am getting out of the van with John Paulson (Pauly) he mentions that he sees our new Slovakian roommate Marek, getting out of his car. My first thought, "hmm I wonder where he is coming back from?" Then Pauly said "no dude the door was locked, I think he was waiting in his car the whole night for us to get back!" Poor guy, he has just arrived in France, doesn't speak English or french and he was left sitting in his car for hours after our loss. Oh I did I mention that Marek scored 2 goals in the game? Great reward for the guy, I bet he'll be a bit hesitant to score a few goals again after this! Sorry buddy

Monday, 22 September 2008

Case of the Mondays? Not Here

Many people in life suffer from a "Case of the Mondays." Simply meaning that it is the beginning of the work week and they were not ready for their weekend to be over and grind of the 40 hour (in France 35hour) work week to start again. But when your job is to "Play Hockey", you don't get these, and for us in Epinal, we were happy to get started with the new week and get focused for our game tomorrow night against Amiens.

Today was a pretty good day for our team. We were right back to business and trying to get that loss on Saturday night out of our heads. I was up at 730am to head to a physio appointment. There is this great Boulangerie right next to the physio office and I always get lured in there to buy a "pain au chocolate" or "chaussons aux pommes" the smell is just intoxicating, way better than the smell of grease coming from McDonalds on Tecumseh Road in Windsor as you pass by Chryslers.

After physio it was right to the team workout at the Jorky Ball. I have been running the team workouts this year and for a change today, to lighten the environment a bit, I set up a Jorky Ball Tournament with our team. Confused yet? Ok Jorky Ball is played like soccer with 2 vs. 2 in a small glass court with nets built into the walls. Kind of like a squash court but with turf. We played 3 on 3 for numbers sake. I set up the teams with based on Nationality. Due to the large number of Slovakian players, we were forced to split them up into 2 separate teams, along with a Czech tossed in there. My team was with 2 of my 5 roommates Ryan Caicco (Canadian) and John Paulson (USA). There were 5 teams total and our first match up was against the home sided French players, comprised of Benoit Quessandier, Fabien Leroy and Erwan Agostini (roommate). The heavily favoured French team flopped losing to the North Americans 4-0. I am not going to recap the whole tourny, but the veteran squad of Captain Jan Plch, Peter Slovak and Jan Simko took the title. Arguably with their toughest match being a 1-0 win over my squad. Honorable mention went to team #5 comprised of 2 Finnish players, 1 Serbian and 1 French player. It was an uphill battle from the start, with such a short tourny the Geographical differences proved to be a draw back (they really lacked chemistry).

The afternoon was off, I used today to catch up on some sleep from our long trip back on the bus saturday night. A good 3.5 hour nap did the trick! Then it was off to practice this evening. Upon arriving, Fefe Marciano, our assistant coach, comes into the room with tracksuits for us to try on, he has M, L, and XL. Should be good right, we try it on then tell him which fits us best. Ya well the only problem is that the M and XL were Men's sizes but the L was a kids size. So obviously I throw on the kids L to be funny and as I am walking around like a College student in a children's Spiderman Suit on Halloween, Fefe walks into the room and loses it on me! I tried to explain that it was a kids Large but he was pissed, "tu me fait chier!!!" he yelled out, don't try to translate that because word for word it means "you make me shit!!!" so ya, the translation would mean something like "you are a pain in the ass." After assuring me that they only made a kids Large and my only options were M and XL he finally called the President and found out he grabbed the wrong tracksuit. I will try on my Men's L tomorrow!!!

Off to bed, morning skate then big game vs. Amiens!!!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Ouch!!! 11-3

We just got back a few hours ago from our game in Briancon. It was our 2nd game of the season and one we would all like to forget. The longest bus ride of the year, we left at 6am from Epinal, stopped to eat our pregame meal at 1230pm and arrived in Briancon around 5pm. It is very different eating a pregame meal at 1230pm when you play a game 8 hours later. Turns out, that is your only option in France because from 2pm-7pm all the restaurants are closed. Packing a few sandwiches gets me through the trip though.
A long bus trip always has some great movies... Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal were the 2 movies we watched on the way there, and I was shocked at how well Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster spoke french! Yes we watched it in french with English subtitles....unbelievable.

We stopped for a quick cafe and croissant at a rest stop and since team rules state that you cannot go "#2" in the bathroom bus or you'll be fined 10 euro, I was rushing to the restrooms. I was suddenly hit with something I'd never seen before- Shared Men's and Women's Bathroom. My running halted, turning into a slow controlled, yet very confident walk, as if I had been a gender-shared bathroom veteran for years. After taking care of business, I walked out and noticed there was a special room where you could change your baby or if you had a young child there was a little miniature toilet. A nice little cosy room with a window...Wait, with a window??? Yes a window, and it wasn't giving you a view of the nice mountains outside, the window was in the door. I guess they don't knock here, you don't want to disturb little Julien on the toilet by knocking, so you just look inside to see if he is done yet. Man!!!

Rest stop, a little different without the Tim Hortons/Mr. Sub

Men's/Women's Bathroom

Baby Changing area complete with miniature toilet. + Window for viewing purposes?

We arrive in Briancon and take a walk around the "Centre Ville" to check things out, kill time and try to get acclimatized to the 1326m Altitude. I grab a big bottle of water and keep hydrating, walk into a few shops, buy a postcard as I do on every road game.

The start of the game was not great, we went down 2-0 early. Then we had a 5-3 power play and I was able to get us on the board with a nice pass from Petrak. Then the flood gates opened, 4-1 after the first and a goalie change for us. 8-2 after the second and finally 11-3 final. Simko scored our second goal of the game on a breakaway and I got the 3rd goal for us on a slap shot just inside the blueline. It was an awful game for everyone, I was on for all 3 of our goals but the 5 or 6 of their goals that I was on the ice for really outweighs that :(

This is the worst loss I have ever been a part of and I cant wait until we play Tuesday so we can put it behind us. On the trip back we left at about 1am and arrived back in Epinal at 9am, only to be awoken by our coach Shawn Allard to say that in an hour we have a bike session at the gym. So I just walked in the door, I am going to lay down watch a movie and start getting focused for our HUGE game against Amiens on Tuesday, must win!!!

Friday, 19 September 2008

The Season so far!

We got off to a little bit of a rocky start in the pre season. We played in a tournament here in Epinal, and lost all 3 games, then we traveled to Switzerland for 2 games there and managed only a tie and a loss. The real action started last Saturday against Dijon, and man do I ever hate mustard. We played a great game and won 5-2. On a personal note, I had a powerplay goal and an assist. Tomorrow we leave at 6am as we head to Briancon for our 2nd game of the seaon!

Celebrating vs. Dijon after one-timing a great pass by Jan Plch on the Power Play to make it 3-0 late in the first period.
Hard not to notice the red white and blue mouth guard!

Welcome to EPINAL!!!

Hello everyone!!!

I am not going to waste anytime here getting this Blog underway. First off I have to wish my older brother Andre a very Happy 34th Birthday! 

Ok so this is my 2nd season of Pro Hockey in France with Les Dauphins d'Epinal and as the year goes on I will post some updates from games, road trips and just regular events that happen here with my life in France!!!