The Canes had themselves a busy little day yesterday, considering that it was a perfect opportunity to take an "off" day. Which begs the question, do NHL players ever truly have an "off" day? Not if they win the Cup, they don't! Most of them started off the morning in the RBC parking lot, framing a new house for Habitat of Humanity.
I'll review with you how the night went for my wife and I, who arrived at the RBC shortly after 5PM. After walking around a bit to see if we could find anyone that we knew, we got something to drink, found a couple seats, and settled down to watch the practice. The practice was a pretty tough one. They worked on many things, like break out drills, drills which had the defensemen join in the rush, drills which had the forwards practice backchecking, and they did a lot of skating. I don't mean skating in relation to some type of skill improvement drills, I mean just skating. They skated around the rink in circles, both directions. They skated in suicide style, up and down the rink. They did it over and over and Lavi was pushing them during it, barking out "speed! speed!". I haven't been to very many practices since training camp, but I don't recall them doing that much in ordinary practices in the past. I wouldn't go so far to call it a "death skate" by any stretch, but the guys were visably tired and it was a good workout.When practice was winding down, we went upstairs for a tour of press row. Yep, I finally got on press row! Too bad it was just a tour.
Tripp Tracey was up in the Canes broadcasting booth answering questions. We saw Chuck Kaiton's booth, but he was downstairs fielding questions and answering them. By the way, lines for player's autographs had been forming since before the practice started. The lines seemed miles long now, extending all around the concourse of the arena. My plan was to wait until the lines went down a bit, and then see if I could find a short line near the end to get into. I tried that strategy in past years and it worked well. At this time we used our food tickets to get some barbecue and a "sinny" bun. We sat back down in the rink area and watched the crowds. The lines were quite long for every event but seemed to be moving nicely. The events included: shooting a slapshop on ice, getting a picture of the zamboni and bench area, getting a tour of the locker room, taking a picture of the Stanley Cup, and of course the player autograph tables. We had already done all of those things at previous parties, so we were pretty content to sit and watch the hub-bub around us for awhile.
After a bit we decided to walk around the concourse again where I got in line for some autographs and she got inline to see the Cup again. By the way my strategy did work, I got Eric Staal's, Andrew Ladd's, Trevor Letowski's, and Bret Hedican's autographs on some pucks and she got some good pics of the Cup! We even had time for a quickie tour of the locker room, but there wasn't much change from last year when we went through. The guy who sews up the jerseys was sewing a "Flood" nameplate on a jersey when we walked through, for whatever that's worth. Huge kudo's go to Erik Cole who was in the concourse signing for fans who were mobbed around him, even after the tables had closed down! I had to look twice when we passed by him, I couldn't believe it. I don't know how long he was there, but I heard he stayed til everyone was happy. Most of the players were leaving while we were just finishing the locker room tour. It had been a long day and I'm sure most of them wanted to get home. Finally, the last event was a "State of the Canes" report given by Coach Laviolette and John Forslund. Bottom line, he said the state of the team was pretty good. It was tough to get motivated after just climbing to the pinnacle of your career, but he thought we had the personnel to get the job done. I can't say I disagree with him. John asked him if he got any advice while out in the concourse and Coach replied that he gets advice from all over, even in Dunkin Doughnuts! Advice such as "shoot more on the power play!", which just goes to show some things aren't much different in Raleigh than they are in Toronto and the rest of the hockey world.
For the most part it was a great event. The players and Canes management really try as hard as they can to please everyone. Sometimes things don't run smoothly, for instance like the lines closing down before everyone has an autograph, but when thousands of people are attending an event such as this one, there are always bound to be a few glitches. Thank you Canes management and thank you players, for making fans feel appreciated! We appreciate it! I created another picture page for a photo review of the event. Sorry the pics are so small, I had a camera malfunction.
J Geils Band