Today was the first day of the tournament. I started the day in the medical room. That's right, they have a medical room here at the rink. It's not what you might be thinking. Last night, while reaching into my shaving kit to get my toothbrush, I accidentally grabbed my razor and took a pretty good chunk out of my finger. It was certainly more than a little cut. I couldn't get it to stop bleeding. I bought some band-aids, wrapped it up and headed to the event where they announce the teams and it was still bleeding. I showed it to the trainers. They re-wrapped it for me and told me to come find them in the morning. When I got to the rink I went to the medical room and I walked in to find guys getting massages and stretched out before the game. The room was equipped with everything the trainers would probably have in the NHL dressing room. The trainer, Ken Lowe rolled out some gauze, ointment, bandages etc... He taped me up and I was good to go. It definitely made me feel like a NHL player.
|Trainer Ken getting me fixed up|
Ken Lowe has been the Oilers medical trainer for almost 30 years. I had a great chat with him later that night. There are 25 players in the history of hockey who have won a Stanley Cup, Olympic Gold and a World Cup. There are only 3 trainers who have done it and he is one of them. Any of the pros here will tell you that trainers are every bit as vital to the team as the players themselves.
After leaving the medical room, I headed to the dressing room where I walked in to find my gear laid out for me and a jersey hanging up with my name on it. It is another nice touch that makes us all feel like pro players.
On to the hockey. We had two games today. The hockey is faster than I thought it would be. It's been a pleasant surprise but it's nothing that anyone who plays pick-up hockey couldn't handle. I was a little bit shocked at how serious the pros were taking it. They certainly weren't playing as hard as they could, but they were very much into the game, watching the play, yelling at refs, etc... It was awesome.
The rules regarding the pros is that they aren't allowed to score unless the team they are playing for is losing. If the game is tied or they are winning, the pros have to pass it off to a camper. The other rule is that there are no penalties. Instead of a penalty, they give the opposite team a penalty shot. I really like this rule.
|The trainers will sharpen your skates after every game if you want.|
|When you walk into the rink, they have your laundry from the day before waiting for you|
|These are Gretzky's sticks|
|Dad and I before our first game|
The two pros on our team are Denis Savard and Guy Carbonneau. Denis Savard has been having more fun here than the campers. He is such a happy, outgoing guy.
|Me and Denis Savard|
The opposing team's pros were Russ and Geoff Courtnall and then for the 2nd period, they had Curtis Joseph in goal. The highlight for me came in the second period. I was skating around the redline and the puck popped up to me. I realized I had a few steps on the defenceman so I put my head down and skated as fast as I could so that I would have a full breakaway. I get in across the blue line and I look up to see Curtis Joseph crouching down waiting for me. Crazy! I charged in and decided to try and deke him. I faked the left and then went to my forehand and..........CuJo read it like a book. I'd like to say he stoned me but I never had a chance. It's so crazy to go in on a breakaway, in a game situation, against a former NHL goalie. He looked so huge. I knew I would never beat him with a shot, so I decided to try to deke him. In hindsight it was probably the wrong decision. More about CuJo in a bit.
We won the first game 4-3. I had 2 assists and played pretty good. We rotated our lines throughout the game and it just so happened that I was on the ice for the last minute of the game. The other team pulled their goalie and stacked their line with the pros. Like I said before, the pros get into it. It's all in good fun, but no one wants to lose. When their team was down by a goal with a minute to go they really stepped it up. It was insane. They are so good when they want to be. It made me realize how good you have to be to get to the big leagues. Take the best hockey player you have ever played with, he's not even remotely close to the level of these guys. Russ Courtnall shot a puck from the point with about 40 seconds left and I thought it was going to break our goalies stick it was so hard.
|Bobby Hull showing me his Cup ring and the other ring celebrating the 50th anniversary of their win|
Bobby Hull is one of our coaches. I could write a book of Bobby Hull quotes from the bench. He is one funny guy. Some of them (that I can put on this blog) are:
"It's a simple game that they make difficult." and "Boys the net is 4 x 6. You gotta hit that son of a bitch!"
We spent a few minutes talking with Brett and Bobby before we got on the bus. Me and another player were talking to Brett about his stick. He talked about the curve that he used, and the lie, etc... He said, "I had a reputation as being super picky about my sticks, but next to your skates, your stick is the most important thing you got, so you're damn right I'm picky about it."
|Bobby Hull, Dad, Brett Hull and Me|
We had a little break, drank some fluids, and then it was time for the second game.
One of the highlights of the second game was having CuJo in our net. He came out for the warm up and I got to fire a bunch of pucks at him. I managed to sneak one by him through the five hole. I put my arms up in the air and yelled "I just scored on CuJo." He said to me "That's because I never dropped. Try it again." I went back in on him and this time he dropped to his knees and I never had a chance. I kept going in and taking shots and he would tell me certain things like, "I knew you were going to shoot high blocker by the way you were moving your feet." I thought to myself how the hell do you know that?!?!? It's amazing how good he is, and he is really rusty. I couldn't imagine him in top form. Most of these guys don't play hockey at all anymore. I asked all of them when the last time they played was, and the common answer seemed to be, "At this camp last year."
|Me and Curtis Joseph. I said "You couldn't have let that breakaway go in???"|
After the warm up, we were standing around and CuJo was telling us about how he sees things as a goalie. It was fascinating. He said, "The goalie dictates where the shooter is going to shoot. For example, say I have a 2 on 1 coming in on me and it's Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. I wouldn't go challenge Dougie. He's a good passer, so I'd stay back in my net and try to get him to shoot it. I might keep my glove down to make him think that he has an opening there, and the second he releases the shot, my glove is going right back to that spot. That's how it all processes in my brain, and it happens in the blink of an eye. It's all percentages."
Unfortunately we lost the second game 6-5. It was a good close game that came down to the wire. One of the other highlights for me was similar to the first game. I was in the neutral zone and picked up the puck and skated into the attacking zone. I looked up and the only thing standing between me and the goalie was Marty McSorley. I knew as soon as I looked up that there was no way I was ever going to get around him. Imagine trying to go around a huge fridge with lateral movement. I slowed down a bit and waited until Marty got back as far as I thought he was going to give me and then I skated into him and got a shot off. The puck went off his stick and deflected out of play. He put his arm around me and laughingly, I said to him "There is no way I going to get around you." He said "I always give people the shot, I'll let them do that, but if you try to go around me, I'm coming for you." Marty is the coolest guy ever.
|Marty McSorley and Me. We almost look the same height but it's just the way he is crouching. The guy is huge.|
The hockey was great, but after playing 2 games in a day, the campers were ready to kick up our heels a bit. The camp had rented out the club Hyde for us in the Bellagio. This is a posh club that looks over the water fountains. It was a really nice event that made me feel like a high roller in Vegas. The buses don't leave for the rink until 1:45pm tomorrow so the campers had some drinks and mingled with each other and the pros. Every year at camp Gretzky does something that is a surprise for the campers, so half way through the event Wayne got up an announced that he had called in some favours and had about 20 jerseys signed by some of the biggest names in the NHL. I'm not kidding. Take the 20 biggest names in the NHL right now and that's what jerseys were here. There was a raffle for them. Unfortunately I didn't win one but it was a really nice touch to already awesome event.
|Me, Jeremy Roenick and Dad|
|Me and Brian Leetch|
|Me with two other Campers. These guys are veterans of the Camp. Derek on the left and Brian on the right. Brian is playing right wing on my line. The are both great guys from Toronto. Derek has been writing about the camp for NHL.com.|