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.