There is something about waking up early on game days that hockey players don’t mind. It might be the fact that we can sleep on the bus, or it might be looking forward to seeing the guys on the team. But for me, it’s knowing I will be on the ice soon.
Going to away games requires a different preparation than home games. The preparation starts the night before at home by packing a bag with extra clothes, snacks, drinks, phone chargers, laptops, tablets, and other things to entertain us on the bus trip. Packing the night before also allows for a few extra minutes of sleep the next morning.
The morning of the game, the players have to be at Perani Arena 15 minutes before we are scheduled to leave so we are able to pack our hockey bags. Then, we load the bus with our hockey bags, sticks, and other supplies that our trainer may need to help us while we are gone. We put coolers full of water on the bus and off we go. The first hour of the trip is my self-proclaimed “nap time” where I sleep to make up the time I lost by waking up early. When I wake up, there is usually a movie playing on the TV screens on the bus. However, I bring my own movies and I watch them my laptop by plugging in my headphones and just taking this time to relax. Long road trips are all based on being well rested, being hydrated, and eating food with good nutrition. After a quick nap and a couple movies, we arrive at the hotel. Since we left so early, we usually have about an hour to relax in our rooms before dinner. For dinner, we usually eat some sort of pasta about 4 hours before the game because that gives us the energy needed for the game.
Warming up before the game is a key part to success while on the road. Being on a bus for 5 hours can really hurt your legs because they are cramped by the seats of the bus and can become stiff. We arrive at the rink 3 hours before the game to unload the bus. Once all of the bags are off the bus, we throw on our blue warm-up shirts and shorts and we begin to mentally and physically prepare for the game. We all do our own thing to prepare. Players will tape their sticks in the locker room, others will practice stick handling in the hallway, and even some of the players will play soccer in the rink. Then we begin a team warm up where we all come together and act as a whole unit. We conclude with a roar and “1, 2, 3, WARRIORS!” From then on, it's all business. While lacing up my skates, all I think of is the game. I think of what I am going to do when something happens on the ice. Hockey never leaves my mind. Throwing the jersey on, I get butterflies in my stomach, but as soon as my foot hits the ice the butterflies go away. It’s time to play hockey.
After everything is all said and done, we are back on the bus heading for Perani Arena to unload the bus. I look out onto the sea of red suits we wear for away games and can’t help but to feel privileged. I think about the bus, the food, the sticks and everything we get just for us to do something we love. Junior hockey players refer to this as “Living the Dream”. I can’t help but to agree because we are very blessed to do what we love every day and have our chance to "Live the Dream".