Thursday, 24 December 2009

Noel Noel La la la la la

As Christmas dinner approaches in a few hours, I have found some time to sneak in a quick blog and hopefully if I write fast enough, a quick nap. I am pretty tired after our 5-1 win over Amiens last night in Coupe de France 1/4 finals. Usually after a game, I have a hard time falling asleep right away, and since I have subscribed to ESPN360, I have been staying up late watching NHL games live on my computer. Last night I took in the first two periods of the Montreal/Carolina game, where I was happy to fall asleep with the Canadiens leading 5-1.

I think part of the reason after my games I can't fall asleep immediately is because mentally I am wide awake from the game and all the hype and energy it takes to be mentally alert at all times, but also because of the pre game nap. Generally I like to relax and have a little snooze, I do not set out 2 hours, 12 minutes and 36 seconds or anything superstitious like that. Though I do like to have my pasta around 1pm, then relax in bed. I usually watch hockey highlights on TSN or for a while, then try to fall asleep. Sometimes I am so excited for the game, all I can think about is what I am going to do on the ice, how I am going to help our team win. That, however, is not the best strategy, because thinking too much can often be a negative thing. Hockey is very much a game of read a react situations and very instinctive, there is simply no time to think and calculate, it must be automatic. Visualization I do encourage, or imagery. Which entails running through situations in your head exactly how they would happen and seeing yourself perform them with 100% execution. That way, when that same situation arises in the game, there is not thinking involved, you simply react because in your mind, you have repeated many times over again with fluidity and precision.

As for our game last night, the big story was our penalty kill. With the game tied 1-1 nearing the end of the first period, we found ourselves down 2 men on some pretty weak calls. The shocking part for us however, was that after being down 2 men, we managed to take another penalty 3 seconds later. Then another penalty 20 seconds after that, followed by our coach, who was obviously pissed off, receiving another 2 minutes for a harmless hand gesture (which I must clarify, was not the middle finger). So for over 4 minutes we were short handed 5 on 3 and I forgot to mention, 3 of our defensemen were in the penalty box. In Epinal I was always on for the penalty kill in 5 on 4 or 5 on 3 situations but in Briancon, with many solid defensive defensemen that we have, I usually am conserved on the bench for the power play and even strength.

With about 2 minutes left to kill, I find myself racing out onto the ice to replace one of our defensemen. I was so excited and so determined to kill this off, because I knew it would give us so much energy and confidence. They took possession in our zone early but forced a bad pass which I swooped in on and dumped down the ice to kill some time. They came back into our zone and moved it around a bit, the puck went out to the point and I raced into the lane and blocked the shot off my ankle. The puck went down low, back up to the top again and as I was hurting in pain, I jumped into the shooting lane again for another blocked shot. Man this was getting exciting, I was having so much fun blocking shots, I started thinking that being a defensive defenseman could give the same pleasures as scoring goals! Anyways, the puck gets dumped back out, I make a line change and the kill is completed shortly after. Wow, that was awesome, sorry for rambling on there. What a momentum shift that was though!!!

Ok, less detail to sum up the rest of the game. We scored twice in the 2nd to make it 3-1, then again twice in the 3rd to win the game 5-1. We now head to the semi-finals in Strasbourg on Jan 5th, with the winner earning a berth to Paris, Bercy to play in the finals of La Coupe de France on Jan 31st. It is going to be a tough game, but we are going to be ready.

This is getting exciting :)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Game in Dijon

I would have written a few days ago but it our team had some time off for a few days so it was nice to get a mental break from everything. But before the break, we had a game in Dijon. Usually we leave the night before the game, sleep in the bus, have a practice in the morning and get hotel rooms for a pre game nap before our match. This time we left in the morning at 9:30am, stopped on the highway to eat, then continued on to Dijon where we arrived with enough time to go for a walk into the city to wake up the legs.

The game started off very well for us, as we got a goal in the first few minutes of the game. I dumped the puck cross corner so Damien Raux could pick it up with some speed, he made a quick pass to Joni Lindlof in the slot and his shot bounced off of Edo Terglav and through the goalie's legs. Joni said he was going stick side and was pretty sure it was going in, then it his Edo's leg and went 5-hole. Either way, it was a big goal to get us on the board.

The next shift out, our North American style of chipping pucks out supporting the puck worked to our advantage as Terglav chipped the puck past the pinching Dijon defender to a streaking Lindlof. Seeing this I jumped up into the play to make it a 3 on 2 with Raux. Lindlof hit me with a pass in the slot and I one timed it 5-hole to put us up 2-0.

I believe what sealed the game for us was when Marc-Andre Bernier scored our 3rd goal shorthanded on a 2 on 1. He came down the right side and with his lethal shot, ripped it blocker side (Jarome Iginla style). We eventually went up 5-0 before winning 7-3 in a game that was sealed in the first period.

The Dijon game is an example of what we have to do against the weaker teams in our league. We know Dijon can be a dangerous team and if we have a slow start and give up a few goals early, that will give them lots of confidence and a belief they can win. But if we can get a few goals early, we should be able to break their spirits and be in command the rest of the way through. Our team has gotten into trouble this year by allowing weaker teams to stay in the game longer and keep us from scoring goals.

We have been working on it in practice and hopefully it was start paying off and the goals will be coming in bunches. It can only start happening at the right time, with La Coupe de France in our sights.

Friday, 11 December 2009

I can stomach it!

Well, after two days of practice, I am feeling pretty good. I was told by the doctor not to be back on the ice for 8 days but yesterday I just wanted to see how things felt on the ice so I laced up the skates and had the intention of only doing a few drills. As the practice went on, I felt decent and continued for the rest of the practice. Today was even better, less pain in my stomach and I pushed it a bit more in the drills. At times I forgot I was even coming off such a rough hit from Tuesday night.

So with Dijon in our sights tomorrow night, I will be on the bus in the morning as we will play our last game, before the league breaks for the National teams to get together. As soon as I found out that there was no serious damage to my insides, I was pretty determined to be in the lineup for the game on Saturday. Especially important will be some of my friends from Epinal making the 2 hour road trip to watch the game. Hopefully I will be in better form than I was in early October when I returned to "Les Vosges" after suffering a severe gastro! Just to note, I still have not gained back all of the 7kg I lost from that illness. I usually play at 90kg or 200lbs, but I am still hovering around 86kg since then.

On another note, who saw the Habs/Pens game last night? Man, did Montreal ever get robbed. The ref blew the whistle while the puck was in the crease and just as Scott Gomez scored, claiming that Fleury had it covered. I thought French refs were bad.....kidding (just in case you guys are reading).

I used to just watch all of the highlights on TSN every morning to get the scoop on the NHL, but last week I decided to subscribe to ESPN360 online. This gives me every single NHL game, live and on demand, so I can watch it anytime I want. The best part about it though, it is in HIGH DEFINITION. After our home games, I usually can't get to sleep right away, so I take advantage of watching Hockey Night in Canada with Don Cherry. It makes me feel closer to home. But ya this is great, in the last week I think I have watched about 25 games.

Little off track there, woops. So to sum things up...... I am feeling good, I have been practicing, I will play tomorrow, then watch NHL games all week!!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Ca va aller!

It has been a while since I have posted anything and even when I do it seems to be maybe twice a month so I am going to make a big effort to blog more regularly. I will try to write a resume from our games and maybe add another blog during the week at some point as well.

I know many of you are concerned with what happened in the game last night against Rouen. We lost.

Oh ya, and I was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Yes it is true and at the time it seemed very bad but I can assure everyone that I will be fine and that is was a big scare but it is a good thing that I have abs of steel.

To explain a bit in detail, last night we were playing in the semi-finals of Coupe de la Ligue against Rouen. In the third period down a few goals, we decided to pull our goalie with about 7 minutes to play. We had a faceoff in the offensive zone, but quickly lost possession and the puck was flipped high in the air and began heading for our empty net. Noticing that I was the last guy back, I turned and started skating back to get the puck before it crossed the goal line. I arrived just in time to pull the puck away and I turned into the corner but as I was turning, the puck traveled through the goal crease and the mount of snow next to the post. I lost control of the puck and had to reach back behind the net to get it. As I was changing direction, I lost my balance (so they tell me) and was hit from behind.

My head hit the glass very hard, but the worst part was the immediate pain in my stomach and the fact that I could not breathe whatsoever. For a second I think I lost consciousness after hitting my head but I quickly realized the pain and tore my helmet off as I was gasping for air. I believe it was the top hand on my stick that was driven into my stomach as I was crunched on the boards and I am not sure how much time passed before the medical staff got to the ice but it was probably long enough for a television timeout (if the game were televised). By the time the doctor arrived I had started to find my breath but could not speak to explain the pain I felt, I just held my stomach with my hands. I remember very vividly the doctor's face being within 1 cm of mine, as he told me to breathe easily. I was struggling and now that I think about it, I probably just did not want to breathe in his face, I can't imagine what my breath smelled like from 1cm away.

The medical staff came out with a stretcher and the crowd was whistling like crazy. I saw the stretcher to my left and was adamant on not wanting to go off the ice on a stretcher. I pushed it away with my left hand, but as the doctor's nose hairs grazed against my pale face, he told me this was non negotiable and that I could have hemorrhaging in my intestines and if I got up it could be very dangerous. This doc was tough, if his power wasn't displayed by forcing me onto that stretcher, him going face to face with my dragon breath really showed courage!

As I was being placed on the stretcher, a few of our guys came by and gave me a tap, I remember seeing Carl Malette from Rouen come over as well with some encouraging words just before I was taken to the dressing room. At the time, I could not really digest ( no pun intended) what was happening and the magnitude of it all, but I do believe I heard our crowd chanting "Enculé" as I left the ice. Feel free to hit the Translator on that one. Pretty sure it was directed at the guy who hit me.

I know there were many things written on the internet about what happened and that is why I am trying to clear it up. So for the record, I was NOT transported by helicopter to the hospital in Grenoble. Well from the state I was in, maybe I was, but they must have got me back to Briancon pretty fast. So I think I arrived by ambulance and they quickly did an ultrasound to check for hemorrhaging, which was negative. But in this case negative is a positive. So no internal bleeding, alright, good sign. I might have a bit of a cracked rib issue but I can deal with that.

So after two different ultrasounds and 2 x-rays, there is nothing extremely serious to be concerned with. Good thing for Twist Conditioning and all of that Core Strengthening I have done over the years to help protect my insides! For now I am taking it easy, I still have pain in my stomach and intestines and my abs are pretty seized up for the time being, but I am going to take things slow and just be thankful that it was not worse than this.

As for the culprit, well I am not going to be putting a bounty on his head, I will not even mention his name. I still have not seen the video of the hit so I do not know exactly what happened. I know hockey is a fast sport and sometimes these kinds of things result. Apparently he claimed he did nothing wrong on the ice as my teammates defended me. My only issue is that you take responsibility for your actions. I don't believe he intended to hurt me and had I been facing him it would have been a completely legal check. But the fact of the matter is, he hit me square from behind. I like a good physical game and believe that hitting is a big part of the game of hockey, but injuries occur when we are careless and checking from behind is where we must pay close attention.

Special thanks to Damien Raux who stayed at the hospital for a few hours after the game and was nice enough to stay up until 5am watching the Habs/Sens NHL game with me (Go Habs Go!) And also Bernard Rouillard who is always there for the players and their families.

Ca va aller!!! I'll be back soon :)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Team Identity

Well, the month of November has been flying by us here. Tomorrow we are in the 1/8 of Coupe de France action in Villard. Normally we should be the heavy favourites entering the game but with our recent track record of letting the weaker teams stay in the game, more and more teams have hope against us. Last Saturday in Gap is a prime example. This team is much weaker than us and have played in Division 1 the past two seasons. They have a few good players but the most dangerous is that they believe they can beat us. It was so close this time that we only tied it up with 1:40 left in the game, before winning in a shootout.

This has already happened a few times this year and still never costing us a loss, but I believe that last Saturday was a real wake up call and we should see a powerful Briancon team hit the ice tomorrow, winning battles, driving the net hard and just simply outworking the other team. That is our game plan. With our talent, if we start beating teams by work ethic and not just skill, we will be a very dangerous team.

On a side note, Team World lost today's Soccer match vs. Team France. The score was uncertain as the French team, most likely inspired by Thierry Henry's blatant hand ball against Ireland last week, turned a blind eye to many offsides and hand balls of their own as they cruised to a one sided victory.

On a personal note and on going head to head battle, I scored early to make it 2-1 on French goaltender Damien Raux :)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Ultimate Frisbee

While we are still waiting for a few of our teammates to get back from their National teams and after 5 days off, we were back in the gym and back on the ice Friday. With 2 training sessions per day for Friday and Saturday we had a day off today and rejoin again tomorrow morning at 9am. As the team's strength and conditioning coach, I am in charge of organizing and running our teams workouts. Since we have been working so hard in the last two days, instead of the scheduled Core Circuit planned in the gym, I think I am going to change things up with a game of Ultimate Frisbee.

This is a very common sport in Vancouver and though I lived there for 5 years, by no means does that give me the title of an experienced player. I believe I played only a handful of times with my Human Kinetics classes, but I am familiar with the rules and will be happy to explain them tomorrow morning in both French and English with my teammates. This will be a nice change of pace for our team, give us a good workout and keep that competitive nature going as we face Chamonix in the 1/4 of the Coupe de la Ligue on Wednesday.

Not sure what the teams are going to be for tomorrow yet but for our soccer games we have usually done France vs. The World. If this is the case, France will be missing Damien Raux who is representing his country but Team World will take a big hit missing the leadership and work ethic from Victor Szelig and Edo Terglav, who are away with Team Hungary and Team Slovenia respectively.

This is all weather dependent as we did have some snow fall today in the Alpes. Stay Tuned!!!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Coupe De France 1/16

The Coupe de France gets underway for us tonight with a game against Gap, a team we know pretty well from Coupe de la Ligue. This is a single elimination format where it will take 5 wins to reach the finals in front of 14,000 fans in Paris.

Last season, while I was with Epinal, we reached the 1/4 finals, losing to Angers. While Briancon, one of the best teams in the league last year, were ousted in the first round against a much weaker Dijon team.

My main objective this season was to play on a top team and help them to a championship. After attending the Coupe de France Final the last two seasons as a spectator in Paris, I am really hoping to have an opportunity to take part as a player and win the very coveted Coupe de France Title!

Mission Begins: Tonight 20h30 at René Froger!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

A BIg Month

The month of October has been my favourite month for as long as I can remember and as we have hit the half way point now, I would like to take some time to explain my reasons. Obviously a lot has changed since it became (in my opinion) the best month of the year. As a young boy, my reasons were pretty simple as I would look forward to October because my birthday is on the 22nd. Then things started to evolve with the NHL season starting in early October so that was a big thrill as I would wake up early every morning to watch the highlights on TSN's Sports Desk (now Sports Center). Also the new hockey video game would be released in October. NHL 93 was a hit for SEGA and then it evolved into Playstation 1, then PS2, and eventually X BOX 360. Wow, as I read that last sentence out loud I realize that for the past 18 years I have been excited for a hockey video game to be released.

Thanksgiving which just passed was always a highlight for me, mostly because we had a 3 day weekend and more time to play road hockey outside as the weather was just perfect to wear jogging pants and my Stéphane Richer jersey. My best friend growing up, Matt Holland had his birthday on the 17th, followed by his dad's on the 18th, then my dad's on the 20th and two days later my own. So Matt's birthday was always fun, I remember one year we went to a Monster Truck show at the old Pontiac Silverdome, where the Detroit Lions NFL team used to play. Then for my party, I believe for 8 years straight we rented the Optimist Community Center's gym to play floor hockey.

Halloween topped the great month off and pushed us into November, which to me just served as a month of preparation, before the fun began for December. But I will not discuss the details of 2 weeks off from school, Christmas, playing road hockey in the snow outside or more importantly the World Junior Hockey Championships, that is another story to be told at another time.

So here in Briancon, France October is still my favourite month, I love the clothes I get to wear in Autumn, the leaves are changing colours, our hockey team is starting to gel and we are playing more games. It is a great time of the year, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that almost everything is related to hockey. This month in particular we have some of our toughest games of the season. We already played in Epinal, which was great, then we played at home against our rivals Grenoble taking the win 4-0, now this weekend we head to Angers to play one of the top teams in our league, then we play undefeated Morzine and travel to Rouen for our last game of the month, on Halloween.

Looks like I wont be doing any trick or treating this year but on October 31st when we play Rouen, I might try to dress up like Al MacInnis

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Gastro Attack

Lying in my bed right now as I write this email, I strongly believe I am on the road to recovery. After playing Tuesday night at home against Villard in Coupe de la Ligue action, I got home and was severely ill. I do not want to get into too much detail but it was a Gastro Terrorist Attack in my stomach, with all the screaming and explosions. Suffering from severe dehydration from the game the night before and the planned attacks on my intestines, I was in the hospital early Wednesday morning with an intravenous. I returned home, feeling a bit better, but still under attack "down below" and with severe cramps and further dehydration, I was forced to return again that day for the same treatment and some blood work.

With Wednesday also being team picture day, I was able to find enough energy to make it down the 4 flights of stairs from my apartment and get to the rink. I will be the guy sitting in the front row whose face blends into the white on the jerseys. Heading home that night I was awake every two hours but awoke feeling a little better. I began eating Thursday with rice and carrots and started getting some strength back (so I thought). Then about 4pm things started to turn for the worse, I had a temperature of 39 and cramps so strong I honestly thought I was going to give birth to something. So you guessed it, back to the hospital Thursday night, more blood work because of my high temperature and I think they noticed my dry lips and pale face and thought I could go for a 3rd intravenous of 1L.
Oh, and they also requested a sample. Yes a sample of that, yes it was a very uncomfortable procedure. Did they get their sample? Damn right they got it!!!

Anyways, I awoke Friday feeling better, started thinking about the game in Epinal and how I had marked on the calender the day the schedule came out. I was going to do anything to play in that game. It was understood that I would not be making the trip with the team Friday night and if there was a miracle, maybe I could drive up on Saturday. Well, lets just say I forced the issue, I ate lots of food, gained a bit of strength and someone convinced my team to let me come. We only had 4 defensemen playing so I thought I could be a spare every once in a while and play some power play for us. Well that is what happened, but after losing 10 pounds in 3 days, competing for the World's Worst tan against Frosty the snowman, lets just say I was not at my best. I played probably about 6-7 minutes in the game, made a few mistakes, took an elbowing penalty (which is French for Body Checking) but was on the ice for 2 of our power play goals.

Not a performance to remember but certainly a game I will never forget. The Supporters in Epinal, which was home to me the past 2 seasons gave me a very warm welcome. They sang my name for minutes at a time, they even chanted Gervais Gervais when I took my penalty haha. That was the only thing they could cheer about. After the game was very special, I shook hands with many of my old teammates, wished them well for the season and when exiting the ice the fans again were chanting my name. I was about to enter the room once more but I was called back onto the ice once again to salute everyone and thank them for the 2 great seasons we had together.

A special night for sure, we got the victory 3-1, Briancon's first win in Epinal in 3 years so I was glad to be a part of that too. Now I will have to take a step back and really try to get back to 100%, because any energy I had was all from emotion last night and getting my strength and weight back will be the next step as we have a very big game next Saturday against Grenoble.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Happy Birthday André

I must start off with a Happy Birthday to my big brother André, who turns 35 today! He is the reason that I play hockey in the first place and was my role model growing up. Tonight we play our first regular season game so I will try to have a very solid game and a convincing victory for ya bro!

It is early here in Briancon, I set my alarm for 9am, as we have a morning skate at 10:45, before leaving for our game at 2pm. Considering it is the first regular season game though, I have been up since 7am. I watched a few NHL pre season highlights on TSN, ate my breakfast, and might make a protein shake before leaving for the rink. I figure the earlier I can wake up, the more fuel I can put in my body to give me energy for the practice this morning and the game tonight. If this works, I might wake up at 6am next Tuesday and start dominating some French Toast.

Tonight we will look to play a more complete game and get off to a strong start. Defense remains our priority but as the coach has been preaching: "the best defense is when we have the puck."

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Quick Fix

So some people have been giving me a hard time about not updating my blog (F.P.) as of late so this should serve as a quick fix to that problem. The main reason for not updating was mainly that I was not too motivated to write about our 1-0 loss to Grenoble in the Match des Champions. They scored on the power play in the first period and with strong goaltending, they cruised to the 1-0 victory.

On Tuesday we faced off against Gap in the first official game in Coupe de la Ligue action. Again, the team did not respond well in the first period and went into the dressing room after 20 minutes of play tied 0-0. With a power play of our own, I was able to get us on the board early with a nice pass from Damien Raux. We went up 2-0 with a great individual effort from "Speedy" Rohat, blowing past the Gap defense, toe dragging and ripping one top right corner or as the french say "lucarne" I wouldn't bother going on the translator on that one because the translation will come up "attic window."

Continuing on, Gap tied it 2-2 before our Captain Edo Terglav potted a rebound on a scramble in front of the net and then added an empty netter to secure the win for us.

We did not seem to have the legs or the jump that we wanted in these last 2 games so we took Wednesday off, making it an optional off ice workout "musculation." Though we have a pretty motivated group so we still had about 12 guys show up. 10 of the 12 did a solid workout, whereas the other 2 had more of what we call a "sauna focus." I think they did 3 sets of the sauna x 10 minutes, super setting that with a 15 second cold shower. Whatever works guys!!!

Hopefully the optional day will give us a bit more juice for our first league game on Saturday in St. Gervais against Mont Blanc.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Shootout Loss in Final

After a few days rest, we were back at work today as we hit the ice this morning and finished the day with a post practice workout. This was our first day back on the ice since returning home from our tournament in Slovenia. Reflecting on the weekend tournament, we were very pleased with the organization and especially the level of competition.

Our first game we faced off against the reigning champs from Klagenfurt of the Austrian Elite League. This team had the likes of former NHLers Jeff Shantz, Mike Craig and Sean Brown in their lineup and after getting over the fact I was battling in the corners with guys who have been at the top (NHL) our team settled in and played a solid game. Going down 1-0 early, we responded off a faceoff win and I was fortunate enough to one time a shot from just inside the blueline. It was very hot that day and the fog on the ice must have helped provide a screen, preventing their goalie from seeing the puck clearly.

After tying it 1-1, we did not trail for the rest of the game and were leading 4-3 late in the 3rd period when we started scrambling and allowing KAC to tie the game. With no Overtime in this tournament format, we went straight to a shootout. I could not really see how Joni Lindlof scored because the fog was so thick, but I think he went 5 hole, opening the door for Ramon Sopko to win the game for us with a save. He stopped the next shot and in fact made all 3 of the saves from KAC's shooters giving us the win.

I feel I am giving lots of detail here so I will try to sum it all up quickly so my readers don't lose interest. Our next game was against Langenthal from the Swiss B League. A very good skating team, very defensive minded. We played a solid game and was 4-2, improving our record to 2-0 sending us to the finals against Austria's Jesenice. Their fans were pretty crazy so it made for a good atmosphere in the championship game.

The final game was very defensive, we scored the first goal of the game on the PP in the second period but it was quickly equalized on a 5 on 3 PP. The game finished deadlocked at 1-1 and again, we headed for a shootout. This time, after 11 shooters, we came out on the losing end. But what a game and what a tournament.

We faced some really good teams and keep coming together as a group as well. One thing that has been implemented as well is that for team meals, we must sit at a different place every time and avoid having too many players from the same nationality together. This way we will get away from the groups within the group or as some put it "team within the team." Guys make jokes about it but you still see a French guy get up and go sit next to a Swede or Slovak etc... In the early stages of team building, it is a good way to get to know everybody as well.

Our final exhibition game is at home on Saturday against Villard de lans. Then the real games begin!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Slovenia Tournament

Feel like I should give a quick update here as we prepare for our tournament in Slovenia. Last weekend we won all 3 games, to give us the Trophée des Alpes. Nice to win, but we know we will be facing still competition this weekend in Slovenia with some Austrian teams there. In the 3 games we won by a combined score of 26-2, as we began to see players emerge from the group with big performances.

We will board the bus today at 8:15pm, and drive all night to arrive in Bled for breakfast and a morning skate. Since the seats on the bus fold into beds, it will be a little easier to sleep than if it were simply reclining chairs. We get started at 4pm tomorrow against KAC Klagenfurt from the Austrian League.

This is an exciting time right now, we will play 3 games in Slovenia with some stiff competition, before returning home for our final pre season game at home against Villard on Sept. 5th.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

France vs. World

I am just getting ready for my pre game meal right now for our 3rd game in 3 days as we will be heading back to Gap again to finish up the Trophée des Alpes. Since we chose to leave our equipment at the arena in Gap, we did not have a morning skate this morning and elected to play a game of soccer (football).

We played 9 on 9 with the teams divided into France vs. The World. With steady goaltending by Finland's Timo Seikkula, Team World cruised to a 5-1 victory. The Canadians were major contributors offensively, unfortunately for the fans, their low skill level in the sport did not serve justice to the beauty of the game. An example of this was clear when a determined F.-P. Guenette stormed down the field after a loose ball and with a nifty play, poked it through the legs of the French goaltender Gary Leveque. In a post game interview, Guenette said "I actually tried to put it over his head, but it just trickled through his legs."

Strong defending by the Hungarian Victor Szelig proved instrumental in Team World's transition game with his size 49 (14 shoe) eliminated many cross passes, allowing Captain Edo Terglav (Slovenia) to move the ball forward to the Canadian strikers.

The weak link in the French defense was surely their goaltending, or lack there of, as they rotated a total of 4 goaltenders throughout the 15 minute game. The shortest time spent protecting the goal was by Damien Raux, who fumbled the ball, before falling backwards, on an easy play early in the game, allowing Team World to take an early 1-0 lead. Damien later said "Je ne sais pas ce qui est arrivé, je suis descendu pour attraper la ball et finalement elle est tombée par terre, et moi avec."

Though we were separated this morning in the soccer game, we will be in full force tonight for our last game of the tournament where we will look to go 3-0 as we face the host Gap team.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Underway in Briancon

Now that I have the internet, I can get some good updates going here from Briancon. Training camp officially started on August 10th with 2 practices per day and 1 gym session and we have been rolling along with that plan everyday since. Most of the guys arrived the week before and with optional ice sessions, most players made it out there for a few skates before the official first day of camp.

For a change in the routine, yesterday instead of an afternoon practice, we took a hike way up into the mountains of Briancon. Prior to this hike, the longest hike I had ever done was probably in Vancouver on the Grouse Grind or the Chief, both being under an hour, maybe even 35minutes 50 secs if I was lucky ;) Needles to say, I was not anticipating a 4 hour roundtrip hike!

I am a big believer in team building and working together with physical activities outside of hockey, but this was a bit extreme! Now that I am finished, I must say it was a great experience and I think every player on our team would say the same thing, but about 1 hour 45 minutes in to this mental battle, most guys were cursing in French, English, Swedish, Finnish, Slovak, Hungarian and I may have heard a few slovanian curse words haha. In the end, we climbed to an Altitude of 2377m.

I am feeling pretty good about our team and our work ethic and as we are set to open our exhibition season, I believe we have a team that can do some damage this year. Our first goal is September 12th as we will head to Mulhouse to face Grenoble for the Trophy of Champions. We want that title!!!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Preparations for Departure

While I am enjoying my last week and a half in Canada before heading to Briancon, it is still pretty tough not to think about my next adventure and what needs to be done before my departure. I started compiling a list of essential items I will need to bring with me to France. These are things that I cannot get in France and must find a way to squeeze it into my luggage.

Heading up the top of the list is Gatorade! This beverage is consumed by millions in North America and beyond, but searching through the isles of Carrefour and Géant Casino, this item is nowhere to be found. Gatorade crystals are the key, light weight and makes up to 21L. This is essential for recovery after hard practices and games as it provides the body with electrolytes and helps you avoid dehydration.

Another popular item is GU Energy Gel! Some of you may be familiar with Powergel, but I find GU to be a great way to replenish my energy stores that I use up during a game. I usually have 2 GU Energy Gels per game. A few boxes of GU will be packed away for sure!

It is not easy to bring over food, and with France being pretty solid in that department already, I don't really have to. Though one item I enjoy that I have still not been able to find is Oatmeal. I usually bring over the instant packets and just add water to it. I enjoy this for breakfast as it provides me with some carbohydrates to give me energy for the days workouts.

Now, an item that you cannot consume is the Roller. This is a tool used before or after a workout or practice to help relieve some tight muscles and you roll over them with this tool. This is great for myofascial release which is a form of soft tissue therapy, intended for pain relief, increasing range of motion and balancing the body. Essential for hockey players for their hips, legs and back!

Well, there are just a few things of what I will be bringing with me on August 2nd when I leave. I am very excited to get started with my new team and start winning some games!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bike Sprints

As the summer is slowly coming to a close before embarking on yet another journey to France, I thought it would be nice to share a part of my workout from the other day. Spending at least 5 days in the gym doing hockey specific training, one of the aspects used for conditioning purposes to complement a hard lift is bike sprints.

My brother and I have done many different bike sprint routines, but on this particular day we did a series of sprints in different time intervals, with the mental image of being on the ice, ranging from exploding out of the zone for a loose puck (10 second sprint) or trying to keep our feet moving on a long shift (45 seconds).

Sprint Routine was as follows:

Find a good tension on the spin bike where it is difficult to pedal, then during the sprint, turn it up a few notches.

5 minute spinning
10 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
20 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
30 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
45 second sprint (x3) 1 minute recovery
30 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
20 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
10 second sprint (x2) 30 second recovery
5 minute light spinning

This was completed after a Chest/Back (Push/Pull) workout. I will see if I can bring my camera into the gym on one of our lifting days to give you a closer look at the hockey specific exercises we do!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Shooting Pucks in the Backyard

Yesterday, my brother Gabe and I spent a few hours outside in our backyard firing some shots. You are never too old to work on your shot and like I mentioned in my last blog, we went to Canadian Tire to buy a big tarp, so that we avoid breaking any windows or the fence, or worst case scenario would be sending a puck over the fence and hitting the neighbours house, or simply landing in their pool for evidence.

Last week, after shooting about 200 pucks, I developed a few blisters, so in a way to be more game like, and prevent these blisters again, I put on my hockey gloves. All I was missing was....well everything else. I might toss a pair of skates on next time to at least be at the proper height, though I'm sure while standing in the grass, I would eventually sink down a few inches, making me at the same height I started at with my shoes on.

Well, all this talk about shooting pucks here, I think I might have to head outside while it is still light out and fire a few more.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

3 Weeks Away!

In just over 3 weeks I will be boarding the plane in Detroit, MI and headed back to France. As per the past 2 seasons, I landed in Paris and too the TGV Train to Epinal. This year will be different, as I will be headed to the French Alps to Briancon!

At home in Windsor, Ontario I have been training with my younger brother Gabe as we have been battling those early morning gym workouts together, then finding some ice session in the evening a few times a week. He is also preparing for his season as he plays junior hockey in Ontario and aspires to have his own professional hockey career in a few years.

For the month of June, Marion made her first visit to Canada from France and enjoying the luxuries of being a border city with Detroit, allowing us to frequent the USA for shopping, baseball games and Cedar Point Amusement park. The highlight of her trip though must have been our trip to Toronto, where she had the privilege of visiting The Hockey Hall of Fame, with nephews. I had to show her the shrine of hockey and just how passionate we Canadians are about hockey (I'm sure she had not figured that out yet haha).

Always trying to improve my game in someway, last week Gabe and I went to Canadian Tire to buy a big tarp. A big tarp? How is this going to make us better hockey players??? Well, since we have been able to raise the puck and shoot fairly hard, the fence in our backyard has gotten beat up pretty bad and sometimes our shots even hit the crossbar and slam into the neighbour's house, so for protection and prevention, we bought a tarp that we have tied to the trees so that any errant shots will be blocked. We lose less pucks this way too!

Well it feels good to start writing again and I hope my followers from Epinal will continue follow along the way this season!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

My First Day in Epinal (aug 16th, 2007)

At this time I would like to thank everyone that I have come into contact with over the past two seasons in Epinal. When I first arrived on August 16th, 2007, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was at the train station in Paris, speaking broken french and trying to buy a ticket to Epinal. I bought a first class ticket and ended up sitting in 2nd class, having no idea to check the car number or anything. As I lugged around two giant hockey bags, a back pack and my hockey sticks, I barely made it on the train.

Being from another country, we hear that the people in France are all snobs and very unhelpful in situations like that, but I have to say that is totally false. As I struggled to get on the train with all of my stuff, a very nice man helped me out and we got talking (in English). He spoke very well and ended up being from Epinal. As he saw how much I struggled and knowing that I had to switch trains in Nancy (where he had his car parked), he offered to give me a ride to Epinal and get me to the rink in time for practice. I am not sure if I would have made it without him, it was almost as if he was sent from God. Funny I say that, because he name was Mr. Dieudonné. Which means "God Given."

As he got me to the rink, I had now been travelling for roughly 24hours straight as I flew in from Vancouver. From there I was in the good hands of Thibaut, who is now a good friend of mine. He took my bags, escorted me to the dressing room as the players were going out for practice. Coming down the stairs was my new coach Shawn Allard, the first thing he says "Hey nice to meet you, get your hockey gear on!" I was thinking that he couldn't be serious I was travelling for a full day, with flights, trains and cars! I was on the ice 10mins later.

After the practice I went with my new roommates, the Finns! At this time however, we were living in a vacation home in Aydoilles about 20mins away. We get there and I have no bedroom, nor do I have a bed. Then a tiny mattress shows up for me and I find a cozy spot on the floor for the next two weeks. The reason for this was because we had 10 guys living in the house at the time.

I put my bags away quickly then was taken back into the city to eat at the Capitainerie, finally my first meal, I was so hungry. Unable to understand 3/4 of the menu, I noticed "poulet." CHICKEN!!!!! Yes I'll take it. It was pretty good, so I was going to give the waitress a good tip but apparently the tip is already included in the prices here in France? Even better :)

With a time zone change from Vancouver to France being 9 hours, I was pretty messed up but if you end up travelling for a full day without sleeping and surviving off a bunch of Snickers Bars, you should have no trouble sleeping that first night!

After that everything started to fall into place, I got a bedroom finally when Petrak found his own place, a few of the young guys moved out and then our tournament gave me a taste of Pro Hockey with 3 games in 3 days. So I was right into the swing of things quickly and I have not missed a step since then, taking my job as a professional hockey player very serious and living everyday being grateful that I can go to work knowing that I love my job!

Epinal gave me my start and for that I am extremely thankful and will never forget my first day of pro hockey in France!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Verbal Agreement Reached

It seems lots of information has been swirling around as of late, some accurate and some far fetched. Either way I am very flattered as people have been announcing my signing with many different teams in France. It feels good to be wanted :)

To update everyone, an agreement has been reached with one of the top teams in Ligue Magnus and though it has not been made official yet by signing the contract, everything will be official this weekend. I look forward to sharing more details in a few days. Thank you everyone for your support during this time, especially the very understanding Epinal fans!!!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

My Habs are done :(

Well it was a pretty disappointing season for my Montreal Canadiens. I managed to see only one playoff game this year, as I set my alarm for 2am last Saturday night, but saw them go down 4-1 in the 2nd period before turning it off.

I am still here in Epinal, reason for me watching the NHL playoffs at 2am, and I should be for another week or two as things have been heating up lately for next year. I still am unsure where I will be lacing up my skates next season but one thing is for sure, it will be in France :)

Now we just have to wait and find out where???

Friday, 10 April 2009

Congrats to Ilpo!

I just wanted to send a big congrats to Ilpo Salmivirta who has recently signed with Rouen! What a huge accomplishment. Ilpo and I both started in Epinal 2 seasons ago and going through all the ups and downs with him here in France has be a pleasure. One of 5 roomates of mine last year, and not getting much sleep because he was rocking out to Iron Maiden on his guitar, I have to say the memories are all great. If there was one thing I would change, it would have him put his blueberry yogurt containers in the garbage and his spoon in the sink haha kidding.

On a more serious note, this is a great opportunity for a great player and I with Ilpo the best of luck!!!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Update with no updates

It's not because I don't care, I do! It is just that I have been waiting to write something that would really knock everybody's socks off, a big shocking blog post that everyone has been waiting for. Where will I be playing next season?

At this point that is still uncertain, there has not been as much activity as some may think, but I will not lie, there has been some talks with teams, including Epinal. Have other teams made offers? Perhaps. Have I signed a contract for next season yet? No.

Big getaway tomorrow as I will travel to Paris with my "chérie" and visit the sights that I last saw at the age of 12, when I was pulled away from my basketball tournament in Grade 8. Leaving the gym saying "sorry everyone, I HAVE to go to Paris with my parents."

I'm sure I will appreciate it much much more this time around!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Season 2 in France done!

Well I have taken some days to reflect since our elimination last Friday, and I have to say that despite losing three straight games to Rouen in the 2nd round of playoffs, we are all happy with our season. As a team we finished 6th out of 14 teams, our best finish in team history, and we also won a playoff series against Chamonix. Nobody expected us to beat a big club like Rouen in the playoffs, but it would have been nice to have stolen a game from them. Maybe if I had not hit the post late in the 2nd period of game 3 as we were trailing 1-0, things would have been different???

Not only were we happy with our season as a team, a few players stood out this year with outstanding individual seasons. My close friend and former roommate here in Epinal, the Finnish Sniper, Ilpo Salmivirta had a very dominate year burring 18 goals in 18 games. Our captain Jan Plch had a career high 52 points and Jan Simko found his form and with his lightning speed was able to record 836 breakaways this season, hahaha ok not really a stat and slightly exaggerated, but he did manage 13 goals and provide with exciting end to end rushes every game.

For me I am happy with my season, most of my individual goals were achieved, as I led all defensemen in points and goals and was named first team all star. Now it is contract time though. I have a meeting with our president this weekend in which we will open up negotiations and contract talks for next season.

Well, not much news here, the season is over, we have been saying our goodbyes this past week and everyone is interested to see what will happen with our team, who will come back, who will coach, and who will find some big contracts elsewhere???

Monday, 2 March 2009

2nd Round vs Rouen

We did it! We eliminated Chamonix to take the best of 3 first round series 2 games to 1. Now a date with Rouen awaits us as we travel there tomorrow morning for games Tuesday and Wednesday night. I thought I had seen it all here in France until after the victory against Chamonix, when Guillaume Chassard informed our players that we were going to honour Chamonix as they skated off the ice by forming 2 parallel lines facing each other and have the Chamonix players skate through us as they exited the ice. Kind of weird but we went with it, and the opposing to was shown respect from our fans as well with loud cheers as they left the ice for the last time this season.

Now our focus is on one of the most offensive powered teams in the league, Rouen. Driven by a mostly Canadian offensive and complemented equally with their Finnish contingent on defense, this Rouen team are the reigning playoffs champions from only 1 year ago. Having beaten them twice this season, once in Rouen in league play, and once at home in a Coupe de la Ligue match up, we know the task is not impossible.

Our keys will have to start with staying out of the penalty box and playing as much 5 on 5 hockey as possible. Also, we do not want to trade scoring chances with them as they seem to capitalize on any errors a team will make, resulting more often than not with a puck in the back of the net.

With 2 wins in a row and our offense rolling smoothly, if we can continue improving our play on defense, we will be looking for nothing less than a split in the series as we come home to play on Friday and Saturday night. In the playoffs momentum can be a very dangerous factor and since Rouen has not played a game in over a week, we will try to get a good start against them and try to keep the momentum going throughout the series.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Playoff Update

After losing the first game of the best of 3 series in Chamonix, last night as we were facing elimination, we came out with an 8-5 win! The game went back and forth the entire way though, with our largest lead 2-0. Every time we scored a goal, Chamonix would respond with a goal to tie it, mostly on our defensive mistakes.

I am just about to take my pregame nap, but thought it would be nice to write a little update here. Back to back games for the first time this season, winner goes on to play Rouen in the 2nd round, while the loser will be dealing with exit meetings with their staff and a few pints of beer at the bar to say goodbye to teammates.

I don't plan on saying my goodbyes for another few weeks!


Monday, 23 February 2009

Coupe de France Trip

Yesterday was the Coupe de France final in Paris-Bercy with Grenoble winning 6-1 over Dijon. At the game there were about 13,000 fans and a real treat for the players to have the opportunity to play in front of so many people. This was my second trip the Bercy for the final, both unfortunately as a spectator and not as a player. I made the trip again this year with the Mauffreys, and thanks to Sophie, we were VIPs. So in between periods were had the luxury of entering the VIP section, where they had many desserts, chocolate fondue, crepes, champagne etc... Typical (really good) french stuff.

On a personal note, there was something special that took place before the game. That was the announcement of the two All Star teams. Every year a Team of best French players is chosen from the league as well as a Team of the best Imports. I was lucky enough to see my picture on the big screen before the game as being selected First Team All Star for Team Etrangers (Imports) which had a large content of Canadian players. Last year they played the All Star game in Chamonix, but this year for some reason there will be no game, just the two team rosters. In any case, I am very honored to have been selected to the All Star team by the Ligue Magnus and Team France Coaches. I also have to congratulate Jan Plch our captain here in Epinal, for being selected 2nd Line right wing for Team Etrangers, and our other teammate Guillaume Chassard for being selected as 3rd line right wing on Team France. This marks the first time 3 players from Epinal have been chosen for the All Star Teams. This is a credit to our entire team and coaching staff, as we have put together a great season and our success as a team, has a direct correlation on these 3 selections.

Below is the link to the two teams.

Tomorrow we will start our journey into what we hope to be a long playoff run, as we travel to Chamonix for Game 1 in the best of 3 series. Game 2 will be Friday in Epinal, and Game 3 (if necessary) will be played Saturday in Epinal.

The winner of the series has the privilege of playing Rouen in the 2nd round, best of 5 series.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Regular Season Finale

Right now I am sitting at the table in my house having my pasta and getting ready to head out to our final regular season game. We are playing at home against Angers, one of the top teams in the league and a team that just over a month ago, eliminated us from La Coupe de France play. Our final game of the regular season was originally scheduled for this Saturday in Dijon, but since they are playing in the Coupe de France Final against Genoble, that game was played last week, as we skated to a 7-3 victory.

I team has been playing pretty well all year, as we try to go 14-12 tonight, and finish with a winning record for the first time in the club's history. We could have made it easier on ourselves had we won last Saturday in Tours, but we ended up losing in overtime. After being down 2-0 and 3-1, we showed the "never quit" attitude and kept battling, tying the game up with less than 3 minutes to play. A breakdown in overtime cost our team, as 2 Tour players skated in 2 on 0 and a nifty pass across the crease gave them an open net and an overtime win.

This was my second time playing in Tours and from what I remembered from last year, they have blue ice. I was pretty amazed by it last time so this year I brought my camera to take a few pictures. Good thing we only play there once a year because it does get a bit confusing out there when you are not used to the blue ice, as it is very hard to find the blue line and many of our defensmen, including myself were backing in too far, not knowing we had crossed the blue line already.

Nice rink here in Tours, notice the blue ice and the white circles and goal crease. This rink was modeled after the blue ice from SEGA Genesis' NHL '94 rinks video game.

You must be wondering how I could have a problem knowing where the blue line was, since it is so clearly outlined in white paint.

On a side note, since I had my camera with my, I decided to bring this topic to the forefront. Why are there no toilet seats in public washrooms in France? If someone could please answer this for me it would be greatly appreciated. We have seen this over and over again, and when I saw a Tour player being interviewed after the game, and he was holding a toilet seat in his hand, I thought enough is enough.

Typical "Non-Toilet Seated Toilet" in Tours. Why???

Friday, 6 February 2009

Home and Home

After spending a week in Canada with my family in Windsor, Ontario, I am right back into the rhythm here in Epinal. Since I could not make it home at Christmas time, it had been since last May since I saw my whole family and most importantly my dog Coco. My time home was spent mostly just hanging out with my 2 brothers and my 3 nephews and niece. My mother and I had a successful trip to the Hugo Boss outlet where I was able to find a sweater regularly marked at $400 on sale for $50! Anyways, not really the highlight of the trip but noteworthy nevertheless.

On Saturday, I took the ice with the Tecumseh Eagles "Team White." Coached by my older brother Andre, this is his 5 year old son Julien's hockey team. As Team White had been recently plagued with injuries (or just kids not showing up) they were forced to look to their farm team for players. On December 7th, 3 year old Sebastien Gervais was activated from "Team Parent and Tot" and was called up to Team White, skating along side his brother Julien, 2 years his senior. Now a regular member of the team, wearing #14, Sebastien equaled his brother's output with a 2 goal performance in Sunday's game versus Team Yellow. Speculation has the 3 year old remaining with the club until the end of the season, though he remains active in the Parent and Tot skates, as his future is still uncertain.

Some of the motivation for the young Gervais brothers could have been the presence of their cousin Calder Johnson, who resides in Hamilton with parents Andrew and Elise (my sister). Calder, the 5 year old boy genius whose expertise is in the Solar System and Dinosaurs, was happy to see his cousins perform so well in the game but couldn't help to notice the elder Gervais spending the majority of his time on the attack and conserving his energy while his team was defending. One of the youngest fans in the rink, but maybe the biggest was Calder's 2 year old sister Cisely, who was pretty focused for the majority of the game, with only a few lapses when she was more concerned with kicking my seat than watching the game, but other than that, she is a die hard hockey fan with a student of the game.

Alright enough about that stuff, back here in France, we have an exhibition game scheduled for Saturday night in Strasbourg then we travel to Dijon on Tuesday night. I hate mustard!!!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Home Ice (dis) Advantage?

What a difference we have in this league in terms of the rinks (Patinoire). After playing in Grenoble on Saturday night, in front of 3500 fans, there is a huge gap in professionalism in our league. I don't like to pick on Neuilly, who is currently fighting for their lives to stay in our league, but when comparing Grenoble to Neuilly, it is night and day. Since I have dedicated an entire blog entry to our basement dwellers I will not give further descriptions on their facilities however, I will tell you about Grenoble.

From my impressions upon arriving in Grenoble, it seemed like a North American city, with a shopping mall and many new modern looking buildings and a nice fancy ice rink. With a sellout crowd every game of 3500 fans, NHL quality ice, VIP boxes and a giant inflatable burning wolf the team skates out of before the game, all you can say is that this place is "PRO."  What an advantage this must be for them. Well from a personal standpoint, I think the opposite. As a player, when I see Grenoble on the schedule, I think "oh great, they have such a nice rink and so many fans, this is going to be great to play there." But on the other end of the spectrum, if a player from Grenoble sees on the schedule, next week they play in Epinal, they think "Shit, that rink is crap, horrible dressing rooms, and the ice is like playing on a pond, this is going to be a tough game." 

Grenoble still sits near the top of the standings every year, and already with the Coupe de la Ligue title, and heading to the finals in La Coupe de France next month, they manage to win games by only 1 goal, maybe 2 with an empty netter. Before handing us a 3-2 loss in their building, their last five home games before that (winning all of them) 3 of them were against teams well below them in the standings like  like Dijon, Strasbourg, Amiens. Normally these games should not be 1 goal games because the difference in our team and the others mentioned should not be a 1 goal difference with a team like Grenoble. But it is the fact that every player loves to play in Grenoble and every player brings their best game for that rink. It is the NHL of France, where the rink is first class, security guards are in suits with walkie talkies and the media room for post game interviews is like a TSN studio.

After the game I was called up for a TV interview along with a radio interview with a website that covers our league, and for a minute I thought I was a pretty big deal, haha. But I was wearing a Team Canada t-shirt and a Montreal Canadiens backwards hat. I should have dressed better for this right?  But then I think about a NHLer like Ryan Smyth (my favorite player), who is just dripping in sweat and tosses on a team hat and does the interview like that, so if he can do it like that, then I must be doing something right!

When asked if I wanted to do the interview in English I thought about it for a second but then said "No, let's do it in French" so if you are interested in hearing me blab on in French I have posted the link below. And to sum the game up, we got scored on the the first minute of the game, were trailing 2-1 in the third period when I hit the post from a shot in the slot. And only about 20 seconds later Grenoble goes down and scores to make it 3-1.  With under 5 minutes left, Jan Plch hit me with a pass in the slot, I faked the shot and made a move around the defender, then snapped a shot glove side to make it 3-2. But that was a close as we would get.

Though we were badly out shot, we stuck around and were always in the game.  For our new players, it was a great experience for them to play in such a nice rink and for our veterans, it was great for us too because if you could pick 1 rink in the whole league you would want to play in, it would be there. Only going home with a victory would make it better. So close, but really, so far away.

Monday, 19 January 2009

3 in a Row, go for 1 more, Go for it...

We have had a successful week and half now, after winning both games in the Alpes then finally putting Neuilly away with a win on Saturday night. The game got off to a bit of a strange start. Before I tell you about this, I must say, that in all my years of hockey, as a player and avid fan and student of the game, I have never seen anything like this happen...

So with the game only 2 minutes old, we are killing a penalty when Michal Petrak is sent in on a breakaway. Mike has a bit of a reputation for diving or embellishing, or in France we sometimes call it "Cinéma" or "Simulation."  So he is sent in alone and gets a little tug on the arm, affecting his shot enough to warrant a penalty shot, but not something that should send him flying into the end boards like a kamikaze fighter jet from WWII. 

But in a way that's what he was, because he drew a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for the embellishment and therefore was sitting in the penalty box and unable to take his penalty shot. After last Tuesday's shootout win in Morzine, our coach went with the hot hand and picked me to take the penalty shot. I wasn't even on the ice, so not sure if that was allowed but the officials didn't think to take the numbers of the players on the ice because nothing like this has ever happened before. Maybe never in the game of hockey???Moving I jumped over the boards and without thinking, took off down the ice, grabbed the puck and was looking 5 hole like I shot in Morzine. I gave a head fake and the 5 hole closed up pretty quickly so a quick fake to the backhand to get the goalie moving, then I slid the puck into the open side on my forehand. A great start for us as we are 7-2 when we score the first goal of the game.

The game stayed close the whole way through, trading goals back and forth on bad defensive errors, and even scoring into our own net. Since we won and this player made up for his mistake by scoring his second goal of the game shortly afterwards, I have to mention how Ilpo Salmivirta, in his first game back from injury, threw the puck into our own net. We were on the power play when Neuilly blocked my shot and came 2 on 1 down the ice against me. The shot was taken and goaltender Stan Petrik made the save but the puck flew up in the air, and with nobody around him, Ilpo attempted to catch the puck but from what I understand, baseball is not a very popular sport in the Scandinavian countries and our Finnish Flash tossed it right into the net.

But like I said, he got it back, ripping a one timer top corner and we sailed to a 6-4 victory. Now with Grenoble in our sights, as we will make the trip out there on Saturday, we have a week to prepare. We had a team workout this morning, focusing more on some core, agility and quickness, then a few of us went to the gym in the town for an additional workout, more focused on upper body (chest/back) and a hard core/abs complex to finish off.  The team is rolling with 3 wins in a row, and we will look for our 4th. Like the old commercials said "It's 3 in a row, go for one more, go for it, CONNECT FOUR!!!" 

Friday, 16 January 2009

Shootout Win

As we now look ahead to tomorrow's game against Neuilly, I would first like to recap what happened on Tuesday night in Morzine. Like on Saturday against Mont Blanc, we departed from the rink here in Epinal at 9:30am. We stopped again at the same restaurant in Switzerland to have our pre game meal before continuing.  

What a difference it makes visiting Morzine in January as opposed to October like we did last year.  Now, the prime ski season, the village was filled with tourists, most speaking English and hailing from England or Ireland. Since we had so much time before the game, we walked around for a while and a few of the guys even stopped for a coffee at the Dixie Bar (Irish Pub).  Most of the people spoke English and even the servers struggled when one of our French players tried ordering a coffee. Though in France, in that place, French was a foreign language. After spending 15 euro for 7 saucissons in St. Gervais, it was only fitting to continue with the trend and add some great cheese to the mix. Here I spent roughly 20 euro on 750g of Comté and 500g of Tomme de Savoie!  I must maintain some control here as I could get pretty fat if I don't eat this stuff in moderation.

Since we eat around 1pm, I usually pack a few sandwiches to hold me over until after the game, but this time it was not enough and I found myself very very hungry at the rink. And to make things even worse, as I was warming up in the stands, doing some stair runs, there was a group of about 35 kids on a field trip, sitting together in a section, waiting for the game to start. No big deal right?  Well I did not mention that they were all eating Croque Monsieurs!!!  I could just see the melted ham and cheese and I actually had to leave the section and continue my pre game warm up elsewhere because I nearly snatched one right of out an unsuspecting French kid's hand. 

In the game, my hunger still very present, was now channeled to wanting to win, instead of wanting to eat as many grilled ham and cheese sandwiches as I could.  We were down 3-1 in the third period but we still believed we could win.  We got an early power play and I was able to get us to within a goal when my wrist shot from the blue line went off the post and off the goalie's back and trickled in. Petrak tied it for us with about 4 minutes left to play in the game off a scramble in front. Then 10 minutes of overtime settled nothing so we were headed for a shootout....

We shot first as our captain Jan Plch was stopped on a shot to the blocker side, then goalie Eero Vare made a huge save, doing the splits to stop the Morzine player. Chassard was our next shooter and he made a great move to his backhand and scored, putting us up 1-0 in the shootout, but their next shooter scored tying it 1-1. I was called upon to shoot 3rd and I made no mistake ripping one 5 hole giving us the lead and putting lots of pressure on Morzine's final shooter. Eero made the stop and our comeback was complete! 

Being in the Alpes again, I thought for sure Tartiflette, it is cold, it is the season, here we go!  But no, it was a steak with a pepper sauce and fries. A pretty good meal, something that you might get at the Keg Steakhouse back home, so I was delighted to eat that.  

Tomorrow night is big though, we have lost 3 times to Neuilly (twice in coupe de la ligue, once in regular season), as they sit at the bottom of the standings, but coming off a close 3-2 loss to Rouen. We have to score a few early and break their spirits to earn the win.

On a side note, yesterday was my sister Elise's 39th Birthday!!! Happy Birthday Lise, love you!!!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Alpes x2

So after arriving early at 5:30am Sunday morning from our game against Mont Blanc in St. Gervais, I spent most of the morning sleeping. This is normal for us to arrive early in the morning after a weekend game, but we usually don't follow it up with another long trip on 3 days later to a place just as far and only 54.9km away from where we played on Saturday night. The idea was tossed around a bit about staying in the Alpes for both games, practicing there and hopefully coming home with 2 wins.

That didn't happen, so as per usual we had our team workout this morning and will practice tonight before leaving again on that same route tomorrow morning at 9:30am.

In St. Gervais, I was not only impressed with the name of the town (haha), but the quality of the ice they had in their rink would have to rank up there with the best I've ever skated on. I would say second only to GM Place in Vancouver where the Canucks play. A few years ago at UBC our team played 4 games there, but that is NHL ice, this is France we are talking about here. Some of the reason for such great ice could have something to do with the -15 temperatures inside the rink. You could even see your breath on the bench in between shifts!  

In all seriousness, it was a pretty solid road game for us, finnish goalie Eero Vare played very solid in net, after giving up a weak goal in the first period. With his solid play in net, we were able to cruise to a 5-1 victory with yet again a depleted lineup. Missing Jan Simko and still Ilpo Salmivirta from our lineup. Other changes saw the forward lines being moved around with our lack of scoring as Alex Sundquist, centered a line with Jan Plch and Tarik Chipaux, and the 2nd unit had Petrak centering Chassard and Papelier. The changes must have sparked Chassard as he delivered a much needed 2 goals and Papelier added an empty netter.

So back to the Alpes tomorrow as we will face Morzine, a team loaded with all French players and we will look for some revenge as they beat us earlier this season in our own rink and also handed us 2 losses last season as well. 

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Loss for us-Win for Canada

We knew we were in tough facing the high powered offense of Rouen last night, but we were hoping the new year would bring us some much needed luck!  We lost 6-2 at home to start off the month of January and it was the direct result of defensive breakdowns. In fact, 5 of the 6 goals were 2 on 1 tap ins, and the other went off the foot of Fabien Leroy. 

Our next test will be a week from today against Mont Blanc in St. Gervais. I will be sure to buy a post card from this place as it bears my family name!  Then we play on Tuesday in Morzine, both game are in the Alps and a few nights stay would be a huge benefit, rather than making two trips up there on the bus. We still do not have any confirmation if we will be able to stay over night in the Alps for a few days, but with the way our team is rolling right now, struggling to score goals and making glaring defensive mistakes, we could use this trip to try and bond a bit and come together as a team to get out of this funk.

Both Mont Blanc and Morzine are below us in the standings, and with the high altitude playing a role, it is always tough to win up there.  Last season we were able to beat Mont Blanc in overtime but really took one on the chin in Morzine losing by at least 5 goals.  

On another note, for any Canadian, Christmas time means vacation, presents, spiced rum and egg nog, but possibly most important is the World Junior Hockey Championships!!!  Last night after our tough loss, I was getting ready for bed when I realized the Canada/Russia Semi Final game was just starting.  I tuned in on the online scoreboard for a bit but could not get any audio to work. The teams were going back and forth trading goals. As the game continued, I was not sure if my roommate and fellow Canadian, Ryan Caicco was sleeping or not....

So instead of going down 1 flight of stairs to his room to check, I remained in my bed like a corps and just signed on to MSN Messenger to see if he was online. He was but did not know the game was on.  I gave him the link and he was listening to it live on TSN immediately and at that point it was the 3rd period and tied 4-4, so I decided to get my butt out of bed and go down to his room to listen in with him. As soon as I got down there, Russia scored with just over 2 minutes remaining. SHIT!!!  So here we are, sitting on the floor in his room, huddled around his laptop with a blank screen and the voice of Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire telling us that Canada has now pulled their goalie and time is ticking down. This scene here in France must replicate what it was like for many people in the 40s and 50s listening on the radio to Foster Hewitt's play-by-play on Hockey Night in Canada..."Hello Canada, and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland" (note- Newfoundland was a British Colony, before joining Canada in 1949) But everybody knows that right?

Anyways, there we are time is ticking down, 10, 9, 8, 7, then Gord Miller's voice starts racing, John Tavares wins a battle along the boards and sends a backhand to the net, it is blocked by a Russian defenseman, but then quickly scooped up and deposited into the back of the net by Jordan Eberle. "TIE GAME!!!!" Only 5 seconds left.  I immediately jumped up, having no idea what to do, I raced over to Caicco's neatly made bed and did a flip and landed on it, jumped back up for a standard two handed high five with my fellow compatriot. Did I mention it was 4am in France??? 

The game goes into overtime and Ryan and I are dying because we cannot watch it. "Wait, I have a plan!" I call my dad and have him sign into Skype, so now I have him on the web cam in Windsor, and having him manipulate his Macbook so that his camera will face the TV screen in my parents basement. PERFECT!!!  This is as close to home as I've been since last April.  So now we are watching the game live, and the overtime ends after 10 minutes and we are heading for a shootout.  Holy crap, this is out of control, it is now 4:30am, 3 of our roommates are asleep and we are just going nuts (roommate's nationalities are as follows: Finnish, French, American- all are out of the tournament).  

As this blog entry is getting long, I will sum it up as this... Canada scored on their first 2 shots in the shootout to seal the victory and head for a gold medal showdown with Team Sweden. A rematch of last year's gold medal game, which I missed as I was in the hospital getting my teeth taken care of from that errant puck that so perfectly crushed 8 of my teeth. 

Only fitting to mention the TSN Turning Point. TSN chose the game tying goal with 5 seconds left to play, but my TSN (France) Turning Point was my dad setting up his computer so we could watch the overtime and shootout! Thanks Dad