Thursday, August 1, 2013

Stories from the NHL Locker Room

If there is one thing we learn from working in sports, regardless of the position, there is no end to great stories.

Some are funny, inspiring, and some just give you an insight into the people and atmosphere of the game.

I spent over 20 years living in a locker room.

My time goes back to the Wayne Gretzky dream team years of the +Edmonton Oilers of the mid-1980s to the Jonathan Toews era with the +Chicago Blackhawks.

As a freelance reporter, I can tell you first-hand that life in the NHL is not all that glamorous. Yes, we had fun. Yes, there were moments you can count as the times of your life. But for the most part, the professional sports life does not reflect what most fans see during the three hours of game time.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and not much of it is what you'd classify as glamorous.

That said, it's during those behind the scenes moments when the best stories come out. It's time I shared more of them.

Coaching Drills

I had the good fortune to watch one of the greatest players practice almost every day. Here is a clip of Jarome Iginla I took from one of those skates.

There was one moment, when all the players, including the goalies, had long since gone to the dressing room and Jarome was still on the ice getting one-on-one coaching from multi-Stanley Cup winner and Hall of Famer Guy Lapointe. Much like the drill you see above, Jarome meticulously shot at the same spot at the net from the same spot on the ice over and over until every shot hit the target perfectly. If it didn't, Lapointe would point his stick and yell out some instruction.

But not all drills seem all that skill developing.

Dave Lowry and friends during a public skate at the Calgary Saddledome
Dave Lowry has enjoyed a lot of years in the NHL as both a player and a coach. He mentions a fellow to whom many will shake their head in acknowledgement at -- a fellow I knew from junior football. Don't get me wrong, I actually liked the man, but there are many who thought he was just plain nuts. He's no longer here to defend himself, but Bill Laforge certainly had a reputation.

"When you’re a young kid, your dream is to play in the NHL," recalls Lowry. 

"I was 19 and went into Vancouver for my first camp. Teams (clubs broke up their training camp squad into teams) that lost the game had to run a mile in their gear. You had two minutes to get your skates off and you had to run. Unfortunately, I was on a team that didn’t win a game in training camp. We spent a lot of time running. 

"One of the drills Billy had for us was he had his 13 stations. One was jumping in and out of the bench. One was fighting with another guy, sparring in a circle. Another was running in and out of sticks and having to run in and hit the boards. Another had players lined up on the top of the circles on both sides and you had to skate as hard as you could and run over each other behind the net. I thought, if this is what pro hockey is like, I don’t know if I want to stay."

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