The pre-season is a chaotic time.
Summer pickup games and gym sessions turn into full-contact practices, team meetings and joyous pre-season muscle strains.
Not to mention arranging your class schedule and studying sessions somewhere in between.
But nothing creates team cohesiveness like an early road trip.
The guys will spend hours on the bus watching movies, playing card games and drafting NHL players for our fantasy pool (mine’s a work in progress). The trip gives us a chance to ramble about old friends, former teammates and coincidental connections in the hockey world.
Most of the time, I have to admit, we laugh and joke about absurd things like favorite cereal brands, attractive celebrities, movie quotes and so on, all of which seem so important at the time.
Typically, though, road trips are a chance to familiarize yourself with others. Everyone comes from across the planet with their own background and story to tell. Luckily, we all speak the universal language of hockey – something other athletes might not understand.
While we’re traveling as a team, we get some odd looks during team meals. If you’ve ever brought your significant other to a restaurant at the same time a hockey team barged through the doors, you’ll know what I mean.
It’s hard to miss 25 tired, hungry and scruffy, Grizzly Adams-looking guys and their posse roll into town. Within minutes, they’ll generally clean out the restaurant’s supply of free salad and bread. Lord help the couple who picked that restaurant as their date venue, because you know they aren’t getting any complementary salad or bread.
In a flash, we will consume 2000 calories, a mound of carbohydrates, about 16 pitchers of ice water and be gone. The same can be said the next morning at the continental breakfast – we apologize in advance.
Technologically, road trips have evolved dramatically since the old days – not that I’ve been around all that long.
Cell phones with text messaging abilities, games, and Internet connections stimulate our wandering minds during long bus trips. The same goes for iPods, handheld video games and portable DVD players. Oh how times have changed.
Though for us university folk, bus trips are a chance to catch up on class reading, assignments and share ideas about similar classes.
One thing’s for certain: I’m sure most professional hockey players avoid reading advance qualitative research methods, biomechanics or macro theory before a big game.
The most cherished activities for a player during roadies are, above all, the pranks. It’s awful when you’re the recipient, but the guys appreciate cheap entertainment.
I’ll leave you with two of the most common pranks – because I can’t disclose all of the secrets of the trade:
The shoe check: Team meals are a great opportunity to strike a guy. One crafty player will take a cream-like substance such as butter or jam and sneak underneath a table. He’ll squeeze an honest amount onto someone’s shoe, while the rest of the team taps its glasses to indicate someone got shoe checked. The attacked player will honorably smile and clean it off without an uproar.
Leaner: Very commonly done outside another player’s room. After hours, someone will fill a small garbage can with water and balance it up against another’s hotel room door. The attacking player will then knock on the door and watch as the water floods the room at the expense of the recipient. It can make for a tough clean up, but once again, all in good fun.
Jason Cassidy is a right winger for St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He spent four seasons in the Ontario League's with the Brampton Battalion and St. Michaels Majors. He is from Whitby, Ont., and is working towards a degree in journalism and will blog on THN.com about his CIS and OHL career regularly. Read his other blogs HERE.