Fort Wayne Training Camp Blog: Day 2
I have had many parents ask me what training camp was like, so I thought It’d be cool to give parents and goalies an insight into what a day at camp is really like, from a goalies perspective. This is from Monday, Oct. 6th, our second day of camp for the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.
My alarm goes off and I immediately hit the snooze button, giving me 10 extra minutes of sleep. Let’s not forget, I spent all summer in Chicago which uses the Central Time zone, and Indiana operates in the EST, so this is really like 7:30 am for me. Ughhhhhh… I’m out the door after a quick bite to eat (a honeycrisp apple and vitamin water) and make the short drive across the street to our rink.
I arrive at the rink, walk into the locker room and change into my gitch, which is already hanging up in my stall in the changing room. It’s a really nice set up we have; our main locker room which has our stalls for equipment, a few T.V.’s that are turned onto ESPN, and the radio playing country music in the background. It’s a small space, but it’s neatly organized. Our changing area is where we hang up our street clothes and change into whatever you wear under your gear (gitch). For me, It’s long, tight bauer hockey pants and high socks. I wear a padded RBK goalie shirt under my chest protector, but since that gets washed and dried with the jerseys, I put on my old Peoria Riverman long sleeve athletic shirt to warm up in (gotta represent where ya came from!).
I begin my warmup and stretching routine, which at this level is not only expected, it’s imperative for the difficult day ahead with two separate practices. Playing professional hockey gives me the luxury to get to the rink early enough and not have to be rushed coming right from class like in college. I take about 20 minutes to stretch, foam roll, warm up, do some of my hand-eye coordination drills with racquetballs, and watch a few games of ping pong the other guys play in the hallway.
As instructed by the coaches, the goalies and four shooters get on the ice 15 minutes before 10 am practice begins to do some warm up drills. The coach comes in and asks the older goalie what drills he wants to do (with zero input from me, but hey, that’s how it goes in pro hockey; age trumps all). The drills are pretty simple, but nonetheless, give us a chance to feel the puck and take some shots, which is more than most coaches do, so I am thankful he cares enough to think of us. With no “goalie coach” here, the drills aren’t really designed to teach us anything, rather to get us feeling the puck. We do some basic 4 puck shooting drills; the first guy with a puck situated by the left faceoff dot rips a shot high glove, then we push past where the second guy is lined up and all the way over the the third guy, who is near the right hash mark, and he rips a shot love glove. Then we push back to our left to where the second guy is and once were set, he rips a shot high blocker, and then we finally push to the fourth guy who is lined up at the right faceoff dot, and he rips a shot low blocker. We do this 3 times and then switch goalies.
The last goalie drill is a basic shot far pad, second shot in tight. I actually like this one, and luckily for us, the assistant coach running the session recognized that the guy who was shooting second (the in tight shot) had no concept of timing it and was just shooting into an empty net before we were there to make a save; some things never change haha. So the assistant coach takes over and after the first shot from the top of the circle far pad, he gives us time to push over in our butterfly and take a second save either in our glove or blocker. I excelled at these drills because I teach and practice them myself countless times over the summer! I do some extra movement off to the side and get my rotations and quick butterfly movement going. The older I get, the longer it takes to feel ready to go; my body sometimes thinks it’s 46, not 26 haha.
Practice begins. The first few drills are basic shooting drills to get us warmed up (which again, I appreciate because it gets our confidence high with most of the shots coming from the outside!!). With only 3 goalies on the ice (the other ones who were supposed to be at camp didn’t clear the physicals and can’t participate-What a shame…), we simply rotate between the two nets. After you leave your net, you skate down and wait for the other goalie to get out and then take over that net and so on and so forth. The three of us are pretty cool about this system, but believe me I’ve been in this situation where one goalie doesn’t ever leave the net and it is a nightmare. I actually know one of the goalies, who Ft. Wayne has already signed to a season contract, he was the second goalie in Syracuse (AHL) when I went there after my senior season at RMU. He’s a really nice guy and a pretty good goalie; we have similar styles, but I think I am just as good as he is, he just has 2 years more experience than me. I do well in my warmup shots, I am seeing the puck good, but a few times I got sniped. These guys can really shoot the puck and all the goals they scored were post and in. If I don’t focus on tracking the puck all the way off their stick, I don’t make the save, simple as that. I really try to keep my eyes locked on the puck because when I did, I made a lot of saves.
The coach blows the whistle, we skate two hard laps, then go to the board for the next series of drills. Our coach is very “hockey smart” and the drills we do all have a purpose and a meaning behind them; to work on a particular individual or team skill he wants implemented. The next drills are all rushes; 2on2 & 2on1. I know this is the time of the practice I need to be at my best because every rush sequence is “game like” and I need to be showing I can handle the play. I do really well on the 2 on 2 drills, in fact, I didn’t get scored on once. The 2 on 1 drills were just ok. I was really bad the first few shots; I got beat twice on goals I should have saved and I knew it. I needed to mentally regroup instantly or I would look really bad. I remembered that there’s nothing I can control except the next shot and that mentality helped me snap back into focus for the rest of the reps. I made some great saves to finish the drill, so I was happy about that, but still frustrated about the goals I gave up. I mutter to myself some words I can’t repeat, but I quickly let the emotion go and get some water, listen to the next drill, and move on. I am excited to make the next save.
As a goalie, especially in a tryout, it’s very common to be watching the coach to see if he saw the last save you made. It’s impossible not to glance over and see his reaction. After all, he’s the guy who holds your fate, and I want him to see me do well. Unfortunately, on the two goals I gave up I glanced over and saw him looking right at me. After two of my best saves (great glove saves), I glanced up and saw him talking to another player (ughhhhh x 10). Even though that made me frustrated beyond belief, I reminded myself it’s OUT OF MY CONTROL, so just focus on making the next save.
The last few drills were lots of point shots and in tight rebounds to give the D a chance to “shoot for sticks” and for the Forwards to work on “taking away the goalie’s eyes” and “clean up the loose change.” That is the strongest part of my game (in tight shots), so I was excited to show what I have. I did unbelievable in those drills, I only gave up one goal on a 3rd rebound and must have made 30 saves. I was big on the point shot and closed up my body holes by utilizing my “blocking butterfly” and was conscientious of not over moving on the rebound- focusing on attacking with my hands and shadowing the puck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the GM of the team sitting in the stands and watching, so I REALLY needed to show strong. With that said, I just kept saying to myself, focus on the puck, track it in and be big. I was pleased with how that drill went; always good to end on a high!
Practice “officially” ended and the coach mentioned if anybody would like to stay on and get some extra work, that’s ok (which in hockey lingo is code for “If your spot is not secured, you better stay on and do extra). Regardless, I always make it a point to be the last one off the ice because it shows that I am willing to go the extra mile, and if a coach knows his goalie will stay on to take extra shots from the guys, it’s helping the team. It’s not an easy job because most times it’s about facing breakaways, point blank shots, and doing them over and over for 7 guys until they are tired enough to get off. I’ve always stayed on after and I really enjoy those types of shots because it gives me a chance to make the shots “goalie specific” by working on my fundamentals like strong pushes, timing, and tracking the puck. The first extra drill we did was a pass from the corner to one of the 10 or so guys lined up just inside the top of the circle.
The assistant coach supervised a drill; he was passing from the corner and wanted to players to work on their “quick catch and release” shots, so it was actually very game like and gave me a chance to get better as well. Since both the other goalies got off the ice, I was in net the entire time, which gets exhausting at times, but knowing this is the time I need to challenge these guys to earn their respect keeps me going strong. I did really well and after that, some guys dispersed and we then played “juice boy.”
Juice Boy is a game that anybody can play and it’s purpose is to leave one “loser” who then has to get juice (gatorade) in the locker room for everybody that participated in the game, including the goalie. Each player gets two shots from in between the hashmarks; the first puck must be a shot and the second is either a shot or a quick breakaway. The only way to get “out” of the game and not be the loser is to score one of the two pucks. If the player scores the first puck, he doesn’t have to take the second shot, but if he misses the first puck, he must take the second puck and try to score. If he misses both, he is automatically in the next round and still eligible to “lose” and be the juice boy. There were about 10 guys that participated, and out of 10 guys, only 1 person scored (ya, I did really well that round).
Since 9 of 10 guys failed to score, they move on to the second round where there is only one puck; if they score they’re out, if the miss they’re still in. I stop about 5 guys, and the rounds just keep going until there is a loser. Eventually it comes down to the final two guys and this is where the fun really began. The two players left are both veterans of the team, one of whom is the Captain, so I have some extra incentive to shut them both down. I made about 30 straight saves between the two players. It literally went on so long; save-save-next round, save-save-next round, save-save-next round, that at one point I heard the captain say, I’m out of moves. Finally, one player scores and wouldn’t ya know it, the next guy does too and so the game continues until finally I stop the first player and the second player scored, ending the game and making the captain “juice boy.”
As I’m getting undressed, I’m delivered a cup of juice and chuckle at his comment that I put on the best performance he’s ever seen from a goalie in juice boy.
I do my post practice stretch and I can feel my hips, lower back, groins are very tight. This is the second practice in as many days and no matter how much you train during the summer, nothing gets you ready for “hockey shape” except playing hockey. Summer skates are not hockey and the rigours of practice are starting to take their toll. I wish I knew a masseuse in town.
I leave the rink and head to grab some lunch. I need to be back at the rink at 2pm for our second practice of the day, so getting some food in me is now a race against the clock. I head over to the Olive Garden for some delicious Chicken Parm and Salad! In my best Homer Simpson voice, mmmmmmmm, chicken parm.
As I always do, I call my girlfriend to let her know how the skate went and she can tell something is bothering me (she’s been with me through A LOT of hockey so she has a really good sense of my game, even if I don’t tell her directly, she knows…). I explain that I am a little concerned that the coaches aren’t seeing my best qualities. I have this paranoid fear that because my game isn’t “flashy” I’m not dazzling them enough to really stand out. It’s frustrating as a goalie because if you make the save look easy, it’s perfectly normal for a non goalie coach to view that as just another routine save that every goalie should make. I pride my game around being positional and under-move into pucks as to not open up my body. That usually leaves me in positions where I don’t need to dive around and stretch out for saves that look flashy and “sexy.”
I tell her how I’m afraid they are only seeing the “easy” looking saves and noticing the goals. I want to impress them, I’m on a tryout, and that’s the only way for them to want to bring me in at some point during the year. She tells me that if I’m that worried about it, I should change my style. I tell her I don’t want to change my style to look sexier on the ice; I have worked very hard at becoming a controlled goalie who makes saves look easy, not hard. She smirks and says, “well then, it clearly doesn’t bother you that much if you’re not willing to change it.” Damn, she’s right. I hate when she’s right about hockey because it makes me feel like I don’t know as much as I think I do. However, I’m grateful and love her for that because she is such a great person to talk to because she knows my game inside and out, particularly my mental game. I tell people all the time, I have three goalie coaches; Chico, my dad, and my girlfriend.
I head back to the hotel for a quick power nap and my 1:50 alarm goes off in what seemed like 2 minutes after I fell asleep, blahhhhhh. But I feel a little refreshed and head back to the rink
Back to the rink to start the process all over again
Pre practice stretch. I feel tight, very tight, so I spend extra time on my hips and groins. Where is my masseuse?
Practice #2. A lot of the same type of drills, just different variations. My only focus is not worrying about what the coaches are watching, I’m just focused on the puck. I have a better practice than the morning, only giving up 2 goals I felt I should have had, but I made a lot of really good saves too. I felt strong, big, and composed. I was happy with how I responded.
The “extra” practice begins and I stay out for another 30 minutes, working on some simple pushes and crease movement with some controlled shots. After the last shot, my legs almost gave out and they felt like jello for a few minutes.
I change out of my hockey gear and just sit for a few minutes in my stall, collecting my breath and drink my protein shake. My hips are sore and my lower back hurts…That hot shower is going to feel great. I get a quick stretch in and loosen up the legs.
Drive to Starbucks and get a medium hot coffee. I look at it as my reward for a hard days work! mmmmmmm, coffee.
Get situated back in my hotel room. Lay down and just decompress for a while. mmmmm, decompress.
Open my laptop, put on some Dave Matthews Band on Pandora and do some work until the Monday Night Football game comes on. I’ve been addicted to watching the MLB playoffs since I got to the hotel Thursday night. I got to see The Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals with their Division Series’ in dramatic fashion; I love playoff sports because it brings out the best in the highest level of athletes. Some of the endings were incredible; you just couldn’t script it any better. I love watching T.V. when I’m in hotels (there’s pretty much nothing else to do haha).
Dinner time! In Pro hockey, you get “per diem” (money) instead of team meals being provided like in college. It’s nice because you can eat anywhere you want. I was planning on going out, but I was pretty exhausted and checked out the room service menu which looked really good. They have an actual restaurant in the lobby so I thought to myself, uhhh yaaaaa, tonight I’m eating dinner in bed. I had an 8oz sirloin cooked medium rare, mashed potatoes, and mac & cheese. Everything was delicious and it felt great to get a steak for dinner, I know I’ll need to energy for tomorrow. mmmmmm, steak.
I caught up with a few emails and texts, one of which to my parents to update them on the day and the other was to my best friend, Garrett Bartus, who is in camp with Evansville in the ECHL. We play against them twice that upcoming weekend in pre season, so I’m really excited about the possibility of playing against him for the first time since our college days (I’m 4-0 against him and plan on keeping that 0 where it is!). He tells me a bit of bad news and a good lesson for all those people out there who think hockey is “fair” or that it’s ever going to be easy.
He is one of three goalies at camp; another is an Ottawa Senators signed goalie (their affiliate team) and the third is a four year pro veteran, Chris Rawlings, and then Garrett. Even though Garrett played there last year, he’s battling less than ideal odds going up against the 6’6” Rawlings, and tells me Evansville is bringing in yet ANOTHER goalie to camp. Instead of having to battle just one guy for the only spot open, he now has to battle with two…Talk about a mental distraction. So we talked it over and I gave him the same advice my girlfriend gave to me; just do your job and control what you can control, the rest will take care of itself. I know it sucks, he knows it sucks, but I also know his mentality and if he lets distractions take over, he won’t perform his best. He’s a more talented goalie than I am and in my opinion of the most underrated goalies I’ve ever seen. He could easily play in the American Hockey League, he just hasn’t gotten the break he needs for that to happen. But one day, he will get there. First step, make Evansville.
Watch Monday Night Football game. Russell Wilson looks dominant and if fun to watch. He breaks the conventional QB philosophy of stay in the pocket and pass the ball. He ran for nearly 100 yards in the first half alone and just torched the Redskins defense. He’s one of the most dynamic athletes I’ve ever seen.
I feel tight again (big surprise), so I stretch in my hotel room. Good thing I brought my foam roller with me-never leave home without it!
Time for Bed! I do a little mental preparation for tomorrow; visualization and deep breathing with some soft music.
Lights out. 8:15 am wake up call (7:15 Chicago time) and another two practices ahead to show what I can do. I feel satisfied with my performance and mental toughness but know that it’s not about what you did in the past, it’s about what have you done for me lately.