A day early
You know, getting in the car Thursday morning, I could have never imagined how the weekend was going to turn out. Head Coach Joe Young had extended an offer for me to follow the team to Fort St. John. I had breakfast in St. Paul when I arrived around 9:30 Thursday. It was by about 11:45 I clued in that I had showed up a day early. I was faced with the choice of going back to Cold Lake, and coming back in the morning, or just staying. John and Lisa Davies were nice enough to offer me a place to stay the night. I stayed in St. Paul all afternoon, driving around and getting to better know the town. In the evening, the Davies’ took me out to the Community Awareness night. It was an episode of ‘Big Bang Theory’, and off to bed with me after the outing.
Time to leave… NO, for real
Friday morning I took myself out for breakfast, and enjoyed a tea while watching the national news. I drove around for another hour before heading to the rink. I sat in the parking lot eating pistachios for 20 minutes. I watched vehicle after vehicle drive by, and none stopped. I was in a daze when suddenly a red SUV pulled up, and the occupants rolled down the driver side window. I followed suit, and met two of the new guys in that moment. Nick Klassen, and Peter Blomberg chatted with me as we waited for more guys to show up.
Slowly, but surely the boys began to roll up to the rink. We loaded the bus as each of the boys parked their vehicles. Lisa showed up with snacks for the ride up to Fort St. John. It was time to depart with 18 players in tow, two coaches, one bus driver, and me. We rolled through Waskatenau, and that’s when the adventure began. We passed small town, after little village, after hamlet. The boys varied from crushing subs, to mowing down granola bars. The back of the bus grew quieter as we rolled into Northern Alberta.
Four hours into the trip, we stopped at the Boston Pizza in Slave Lake. Joe had pre-ordered for the team, so we could eat when we rolled up. I’ve never eaten pasta like a hockey player, but I tried my best. Let me tell you though, for as tasty as that meatball with my spaghetti was it might as well have been golden. Damn it was good, perhaps it was just the long drive that made it that way.
The rest of the trip up was a bit of blur, as sundown hit, and we were in the dark. I napped off, and on for much of the rest of the way.
Saturday morning skate
After a restful sleep at the StoneBridge Inn in Fort St. John, we headed to the North Peace Arena for the first time. The Canadiens skated lightly to wake up their legs for later in the evening. Peter Blomberg broke a skate blade for the first time in his life during the skate. Joe tasked me with helping Peter find a place to get a new blade. It was a quick google maps use, and we headed for the mall in the adjacent parking lot. It took until 4:30 in the afternoon, but Peter finally had a new blade, and a pair of sharpened skates.
The first night of action in the St. Paul Canadiens season was a real wake up call. The boys had only skated four and a half times before the game, and it showed. New Canadiens goalie hopeful Aidan Harding kept me company throughout the game, and gave me insight into a junior b goalies mind. The boys played the full sixty, and took the lessons learned back to the hotel. It was an 8-0 loss with all said, and done.
It was another early morning wake-up call for all of us on Sunday. I hustled down to make it in time for continental breakfast. One thing I can say about the breakfast, is that it hit the spot both days. I sat with Zach Bendall, and Alex Astasiewicz. We chatted lightly, as I could tell both of them were focused on a big game at noon. The boys came out firing in game two, scoring their first goal within the first two minutes. It was a back and forth battle until the dying minutes of the second period. Again, the limited number of skates cost the boys. In game two they looked like a completely new team from game one. In the end, it was a 9-4 loss, but the Canadiens walked away with quite a bit of confidence.
Subs and go
The Fort St. John Huskies treated us to subs for our trip back to St. Paul. They didn’t last long as is only to be expected. I snapped back to reality as we hit the Alberta border. I got to work on other sports news from around the Lakeland. The boys went pretty quite for several hours. An hour out from Slave Lake, the boys came alive. Not because of anything exciting, but because of a bit of stomach grumbles. The boys hopped off the bus as fast as possible, and spread around Slave Lake grabbing food from wherever was open. With grub in tow, we hit the road. The boys mellowed out, and I nodded off to sleep. The trip was nearly over.
Back on the road
We rolled into St. Paul just past 1:30 a.m. It took me all of five minutes to get into my car. I was on the road home to Cold Lake. I rolled in at 3:30, and it was bed time. What a weekend it was. It was a great weekend. Nothing but thanks from me to the St. Paul Canadiens, Fort St. John Huskies, and the bosses for letting me hit the road for my first game action of the year.