Today was our first day on the ice. It was a practice session for everyone in the camp. The main idea behind the practice was to get everyone on the ice so they can loosen up, and for the coaches and people at the camp to watch all the players and rank us, so they can try to make 4 balanced teams.
|You walk into the dressing room and your gear is sitting there waiting for you. Crazyiness.|
There are basically 3 levels of hockey players here, guys who are good, guys who alright and a few guys who haven't really played much hockey before. The practice was very well run by former NHL assistant coach Cap Raeder. It kind of felt like a NHL practice. He would call us to the side of the boards and draw out some stuff on a white board. He made sure we were having fun and wasn't being too serious, but he also pushed us a little bit and taught us some stuff too. It was a great first ice session.
Walter Gretzky is one of the coaches and was one of the guys evaluating us. They put the campers out in 2 groups. I was in the second group. Walter is a really funny guy who has tons of one liners. Afterwards, I asked him how our group looked. He said "You guys looked like a million dollars, the only problem is the money has all been spent!" Later that night we were in the elevator with him and he was rolling up his sleeves up. I said to him, "Walter it looks like you are getting ready for a fight." He held his fists up one at a time and said "I gotta decide if they are gonna go to Venus (left fist) or Mars (right fist)."
|Trying to take some artsy pics|
On the bus ride back from the rink, I sat with Mike Barnett who used to be Gretzky's agent and was the GM in Phoenix. We had an awesome chat and he had lots of great stories about what it is like being a GM and how trading players work, contracts, and the business side of hockey etc... It was a really interesting conversation for any die hard hockey fan. He was really friendly and more than happy to chat.
Everyone here has been so friendly. From NHL'ers, to the training staff to the photographer. I really get the impression that this isn't an accident. It feels to me like Wayne surrounds himself with these kind of people. The have professional videographers and photographers taking pictures of everything. I had a great extended chat with Bruce the photographer about his career in sports photography and he gave me some pointers on my own camera. I struck up a conversation with the videographer and turns out we went to university together in Halifax.
|A nice shot I got of the Bellagio fountains from the balcony of the suite|
|Dad with Denis Savard|
|Dad and Bobby Hull|
The room cleared out fairly early and by the end of it, there was about 5 of us guys and Marty McSorley. Marty is such an awesome guy. He talked hockey with us for about 45 minutes. Very friendly and incredibly knowledgeable. The stories he told us were amazing. It's really blowing my mind how candid the pros are being with us. It's like they don't have a filter on. We can ask them anything and they answer it. Marty struck me as the kind of guy who would be an awesome coach. His knowledge of the game is incredible, but they way he explains it is a gift that most people don't have. I told him, "I'm a musician, and I've also taught music. I know lots of incredible musicians who are amazing players, but they can't explain to you what they are doing. They are great players but not great teachers. You can explain things like a teacher."
|Me, Marty McSorley and Dad|
Dad and I met another father/son combo from Montreal. They were really nice guys and are playing on my team. We chatted with them for a long time. The father only speaks a little bit of English, so I got to practice some of my French. It was nice. He told me I was speaking it just fine!
Now that we are placed on teams, I feel like I'll get to know guys a lot better as we'll be spending a lot of time together in smaller groups. Meeting people from all over is a very cool part of this camp too. There are a lot of campers who come every year and it almost has a family feel to it. The campers come from all walks of life, some are dentists, some health care guys, some are in construction. Some are wealthy and come every year, but everyone has a few big things in common: we all love hockey, and were all here to have a good time.
The tournament starts tomorrow. Each team plays 2 games. From the sounds of it, this is when the fun really begins. I can't imagine it being more fun than it already is. Stay tuned...