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 :)