Former NHL goalie Jamie McLennan takes in the sights on his Asian adventure.
Hello everyone, it’s your favorite import Japanese player checking in from the Land of the Rising Sun for my third blog installment. I wanted to bring everyone up to speed on how things are going for Tyson and I.
We have settled into our lodging and are taking in some of the local culture. Our apartments are very modest, but clean and have all the amenities of back home. I feel like a giant inside because the roofs aren’t very high, so that means I have to duck through a doorway, but once inside the room the ceilings are higher. Tyson still needs a boost to get into his bed and I loaned him my phonebooks to sit on at the ‘adult’ table, but other than those minor setbacks, we are adjusting well.
We have been playing some games, but are still trying to adjust to the style and level of play. It seems a lot of things, especially hockey-wise, are not the norm here in comparison to back home. For example, before the games both teams bow to the fans, which is then followed by the anthems.
As I have said before, the level of play is very different here, not that the players are worse than back home, but some of the systems and philosophies are definitely eye opening. From my experience playing many years in the NHL, a goalie often gets spoiled with how reliable and trustworthy most players are at that level; so when I think something’s going to happen here it seems the opposite can appear out of nowhere. Overall I know Tyson and me have contributed and tried to help in every way possible to bring our experience to the team.
Unfortunately in a recent game, Tyson was doing his thing, playing a strong game and bodychecking everyone in sight to the point that he injured himself. The sad part about it all is that it is virtually indescribable how well he was playing.
I know from playing with him in St. Louis how hard he hits and how much he was able to agitate other players. Even when we played against each other, he was able to get under my skin. He pulled my hair in a scrum after a whistle when I was playing for Minnesota (another long story) and that was in the best league in the world. So you can only imagine how he was able to physically hit some of the smaller, more unsuspecting players over here.
Our team will miss him, as I believe he will be out for about a month, but the guys know how hard he plays and will have to battle on until he returns.
The fans are very loyal… and loud here. We have around 2,000 to 3,000 people every game, which I believe is all our arena seats. The atmosphere is great and the fans chant, play drums and generally cheer us on at all costs.
I mean, let’s be honest here, there is no ‘Red Mile’ or people painting themselves who live and breathe the hockey team like the experiences I had the privilege of being a part of in my NHL career, but these people are proud fans.
There’s a reason I wanted to talk about the fans a bit. I had to chuckle to myself during a recent game.
The score was 5-1 and although we were winning with five minutes left, I wasn’t having a sharp night. The team was good and I had the benefit of some lucky plays that didn’t result in goals. It was just one of those nights where things seemed to be going my way, even though I wasn’t very strong.
When I allowed a soft goal, the home crowd started chanting my name and cheering me. This was foreign territory for me - not surrendering a crappy goal, those happen to everyone - but the reaction of the fans. Anyone who knows me, knows I am my own toughest critic, so naturally I was not too pleased with the goal.
Even though it had no bearing on the outcome, my reaction was to be hard on myself. If this had been back home, I would have expected the coach to be giving the death stare and the GM waiting for me in the hallway to choke me out (joking), but you get the idea.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight as the fans got behind me. Of course, I don’t want to make a habit of having to go through these experiences, but it was definitely a refreshing reaction to a mistake.
Finally, the guys have begun to relax and accept us around the dressing room, which is a relief. Apparently there were some rumblings of the guys pitching in to start a fund to hire a dentist to do some extensive work on Tyson’s teeth and gum-line, after he was spotted at one of the pre-game meals eating an apple through a tennis racquet. Upon final inspection of his oversized mouth guard, it was determined Tyson had been born with at least 15 extra teeth, rivaling that of a great white shark.
This, in turn, has led the boys to install a series of nicknames for Nasher and myself.
Most obvious for me are the usual culprits from back home: Noodles, Crocodile Dindy and Dumbo, which, although tough, is quite manageable.
The boys narrowed the list to 10 for Nasher, but the three most popular seem to be: Mr. Ed, Homeless Man and Shrek. They have stuck with these favorites in spite of the fact he continues to call himself ‘Takanashy’.
Only time will tell which of these gems will stick…
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently playing for the Nippon Paper Cranes of the ALIH (Asia League Ice Hockey). Nicknamed 'Noodles,' McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record.