For a long time there was only one hockey tradition in my family. Whenever the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final was played, I insisted that my two sons watch the postgame handshake and the ensuing victory laps with the Cup by each victorious player. I don’t know what it is about that sequence of events but it brings me close to tears every year. It doesn’t matter which team wins or who’s on the team. I guess because I work in the business I know the sacrifice and dedication it takes to make it to the NHL and then the sacrificed and dedication it takes all over again to win a cup. It moves me, every single year, and I want to share that with my children.
Well now we have a second hockey tradition. Whenever possible, and this year it’s possible, we will watch the Winter Classic game together. My partner, the great Drew Remenda, summed it up best on our broadcast New Years Eve. The annual outdoor game on New Years Day captures the very essence of the game of hockey. Yes it’s an NHL regular season game, but the Winter Classic transcends the NHL. It’s about the sport, the roots of the sport, and the way it’s played when you’re a little tyke growing up on the Canadian prairie or on a Minnesota farm.
So on this New Years Day and everyone going forward I will be in front of a television with my sons or watching in a hotel room on the road and calling my sons to share our common experience with the Winter Classic. There’s no denying that the NHL hit a marketing home run with the outdoor game, but for many of us it means much more than TV ratings and selling tickets and apparel. The Winter Classic takes us back to why we fell in love with hockey in the first place.
Happy New Year!
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
What a long, strange trip it’s been, and what a great story for San Jose Sharks center Bracken Kearns.
On Sunday, December 29, 2013, Kearns scored his first NHL goal and first NHL point after swooping into the slot on a timely shift change. Andrew Desjardins and Tyler Kennedy had developed a 2-on-1 opportunity that was thwarted at first by defenseman Hampus Lindholm. But Desjardins persevered, and got the puck back behind the net, slipped a pass through Nick Bonino to the front of the net.
Kearns was there, and he banged it past Frederik Andersen for the moment that was celebrated by former Sharks captain Owen Nolan on Twitter with this aptly stated message:
The trip to this moment that every young man dreams of has been long and arduous for Kearns. Even though some of it has been in an airplane, much of it has also been rolling on the highways of North America, traveling from city to city, chasing that very dream. Let’s take a seemingly simple trip along the criss-cross path that brought Kearns to this moment:
- The journey begins at the University of Calgary, where Kearns played for the Dinos for four years.
- Undrafted, Kearns begins his pro odyssey with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm at the Toledo Sports Arena in 2005, a legendary building that inspired the progressive rock band Yes to write “Our Song,” after a concert that saw the in-arena temperature rise to 126 degrees Fahrenheit. Listen here. Distance traveled: 1,847 miles.
- At the end of the 2005-06 season, Kearns had his first contact with the Sharks organization, playing in 1 game for Roy Sommer and the Cleveland Barons, a 180 mile trip from Toledo.
- From there, the next stop was Milwaukee, playing for the AHL’s Admirals. Distance traveled: 435 miles.
- After one season in Milwaukee, Kearns split the next campaign going back and forth from Norfolk, VA to Reading, PA, and then, back to Norfolk. Distance traveled: 600 miles.
- From there, it was on to Rockford, IL, and the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. Distance traveled: 971 miles.
- Next, Kearns hooked up with the Florida Panthers organization in 2010-11. His next move was from Rockford to San Antonio, TX. Distance traveled: 1193 miles.
- At the age of 30, after one full season in San Antonio, his first NHL dream came true, when he skated in 5 games with the Panthers after a recall from the AHL. Distance traveled from San Antonio to Sunrise, FL: 1356 miles. Back to San Antonio: another 1356 miles.
- But after that season, Kearns was a free agent. He signed with San Jose, the organization that gave him his first AHL opportunity. But this time, the destination was Worcester, MA, 2000 miles from San Antonio.
- After scoring 21 goals in Worcester and some solid reports filed out West, Kearns received an NHL call again. He flew to San Jose to play in 1 regular season game. We’ll credit him with driving miles: 3093 more on the odometer.
- With the Sharks dealing with some injuries and needing certain roles filled, Kearns played in all 7 games of the taxing series against the Los Angeles Kings, further gaining the trust of the coaching staff. He now has more games played in Stanley Cup playoff competition than in the regular season, and still has 0 points.
- It’s back to Worcester for the 2013-14 NHL season after a good training camp in California. Distance traveled: 3093 miles.
- In mid-October, Kearns is recalled to Dallas, where the Sharks are playing the Stars. He plays 10:10, and is featured on a line with Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard. Distance traveled: 1733 miles. Back to Worcester: another 1733 miles.
- While Kearns was scoring 5-13-18 in 27 games for Worcester this season, injuries were mounting in San Jose. Raffi Torres and Adam Burish weren’t ready, Martin Havlat got banged up, and Tomas Hertl went down with a knee injury. The phone rang again in Worcester Sharks coach Roy Sommer’s office. The call is for Kearns. Distance traveled: 3093 miles.
- That fast-forwards us to the present. Kearns played in his 8th career regular season game in the NHL, and his 3rd for the Sharks. The moment arrives. He scores his first NHL goal, and is one of the stars of the game in a huge win against the top-rated Anaheim Ducks.
Kearns scored his first goal at the tender age of 32 years, 231 days, making him the oldest Shark to score his first NHL goal in a San Jose uniform. The old record holder was Jay Leach, who scored his first and only NHL goal at the age of 30 years, 190 days.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot: the total distance traveled between cities, not including road trips, was 22,683 hard miles for Bracken Kearns, a still-young 32-year-old who is usually first on the ice and last off. There are still many miles to go for him, but let’s savor the moment after all of the years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. It’s a great story.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Many people are creatures of habit. There’s something comforting about our daily rituals. They give life predictability and structure which help us master daily tasks. No one is quite the slave habit as professional hockey player.
Strong personal discipline is essential to success. Players try to eat, sleep, practice and play at times that work in sync with their body clocks. Be it at home or on the road the players, team and staff all know what needs to be done.
At home players get to sleep and stay at their own homes. Single guys have only themselves to worry about; married players have home-life and in many cases young children that impact their lives as professionals. During homestands players wake at a fairly early hour. They eat at home or have a light breakfast at the rink prior to a 10:30 a.m. gameday morning skate. From 10:30 to 11:00 they go through a light skate, running simple drills and working on skills. Pro hockey players spend hours and hours working on their hockey sticks and fine tuning their personal equipment. Following practice the players make themselves available to the media. Journalists, TV and radio folks get this morning opportunity which they can put to work later in the day. Home team players will then head home or to a local restaurant for a ‘power lunch’. Nutrition is essential to a strong performance on the ice.
A hockey tradition is the afternoon nap. Players like to catch a few zzzz’s to power mind and body. Following the rest, players have a pregame snack and head to the arena. Once back at the familiar surroundings of the arena, players slowly ramp up to game time. They work on their equipment, stretch, relax with teammates. Come 7:00 p.m. it’s the on-ice warmups. As fans stream in the arena bowl comes to life. Full lights, loud music and the sounds of hockey fill the building. After 15 minutes on the ice players get final instructions and reminders from the coaching staff. The countdown clock in the dressing room gets closer and closer to 00:00. It’s at that time that the team leaves the room to confidence, even swagger. It’s their town, their fans and their home ice. Let the game begin.
Playing on the road is a bit of a different animal. For road games the visiting team leaves the day before the match. Teams will routinely practice at home then they fly to their destination. Arrival is usually around 5:00pm. Players usually head out in small groups or one large group for a nice casual dinner. Some guys have made arrangements to visit family or old teammates for dinner. The evening will end sooner enough then it’s back to the hotel to get rest.
Morning comes quick…it’s downstairs and a good breakfast. The team bus leaves for the rink around 10:15 a.m. for an 11:30 skate. The ritual continues with taping sticks and skate sharpening. On the ice there’s enough time to ‘feel’ the ice and figure out how the glass and boards respond to pucks. Drills and skills get special attention. By 12:30 p.m., it’s back to the hotel ... lunch followed by a nap. The bus leaves for the game around 5:00 p.m. There are special teams meetings … the powerplay and penalty kill squads get final reminders on opponent tendencies.
In the past few seasons pregame soccer circles with players working on quick feet and eye coordination has taken its place in the routine. This fun drill happens around 6:00 p.m. in the bowels of the stadium. Then it’s the pregame skate and final mental preparation. The puck drops at 7:38 p.m. and then it’s the real test. Win or lose, postgame it’s off to the next city for the next game.
Today the Sharks will have their routine impacted considerably. Rather than flying out the day before, the holiday break has made it necessary to fly out game day morning. The Sharks met up at the corporate terminal at 6:30 a.m. and departed for Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. Once landed in Arizona, the team will head to the arena for their morning skate. The team will have day rooms at the hotel for essential rest. After rest and snacks, the road ritual is full on. The game is the thing. Win or lose, the Sharks will head home immediately following the game. The big question that will be answered is how this change in schedule will impact performance. Barring the unknown this will be the only road game all season which will require a gameday flight. Will the break help or hinder? Tune in tonight on CSN-California or on KFOX to get the answer.
On this Christmas Eve 2013 I want to take a moment to thank the NHL Players Association and the National Hockey League. Thank you for agreeing not to play games on December 24, 25 and 26th.
For as long as I’ve been working in the league there have never been games on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The last time the NHL played on Christmas Eve was 1972 and there haven’t been games on Christmas Day since 1971. Under the new collective bargaining agreement the holiday break is now 3 full days. I think it’s an excellent decision.
Christmas is a time for families to gather and share time together. That goes for hockey players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters, referees, arena employees and everyone else connected with working in the game. I get it that some fans would like to kick back and watch games over the holidays but the NBA pretty much has December 25th to themselves and there are inevitably already college bowl games and the occasional NFL tilt. And you can now get your hockey fix anyway watching the always-compelling World Junior Hockey Tournament that is now televised live in the US on the NHL Network.
The league has already successfully determined that New Years Day will be it’s day to shine with the Winter Classic. Why play at Christmas?
The NHL’s players especially welcome the three-day break. The regular season is a grind, especially when the schedule is compacted due to the Winter Olympic Games, as it is this year.
So enjoy your Christmas holiday whether it has spiritual significance for you or not. It’s a time to enjoy those we care about and love most. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and we’ll look forward to December 27th in Phoenix against the Desert Dogs!
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
Brett is the technology guru of the staff who oversees all the video, but he is also much more than that. As Todd McLellan said, “Brett is the unsung hero of our staff, doesn’t get much recognition and people outside don’t know how much he does. When he started he had technical skills but our staff is more efficient now because Brett’s hockey knowledge has expanded so much.”
On a typical game day Brett arrives at the rink at 6:00am and gets home around 11:30pm. On a practice day he arrives at 6:00am and gets home around 3 or 4pm. Long days, but passionate days as he works with some of the smartest hockey minds in the world.
Brett’s hockey knowledge, especially of how the San Jose Sharks are hoping or expected to play, is on display during a game. This is when Brett has to be, and is, at his best!
During a game Brett captures, edits and marks the live video using an advanced sports software system. He captures a live timeline of the game, a single video file for each period that he works of off. Here is a rundown of his in-game responsibilities.
- Breaks down and does a live capture of all the situations in a game whether they are systematic in nature or of particular players
- During a typical game Brett will mark and create 600 to 800 separate video clips
- He indexes points on the video using pre-set key strokes that are labeled for specific entries, for instance; system plays, scoring chances for and against, individual players, plays from different zones on the rink etc…
- Knows what the coaching staff is looking for in regards to the Sharks systems, opponents, players
- Identifies adjustments and/or tendencies that he sees while watching the game
- Is in constant communication with Jay Woodcroft who is on the Sharks bench.
- Brett will let Jay know if he sees something on video
- Jay will communicate with Brett something the coaches want to see at the end of the period. They can then show players the video.
While Brett’s most crucial value from a job description is his in-game video marking and analyzing, that’s not all he does.
Brett makes sure the assistant coaches are prepared and have what they need from a video standpoint to pre-scout the Sharks next set of opponents, typically 5 games out.
Brett sets up all the video equipment, configures the network for file sharing (more prevalent on the road in different hotels and arena’s), makes sure all the video clips are ready for coaches meetings and when necessary sets up projectors, network cables and lastly oversees all the data backup, storage and filing.
Brett does data and video analysis and provides stats for the coaching staff.
On a typical practice day Brett organizes all the clips for the coaches meetings and also identifies additional clips or information that is needed for the meetings. He is at the disposal of the coaches if they are having any technical issues, whether it is network, hardware or software related.
Bottom line, Brett gives the coaches more time to do what they do best, coach and teach. Brett Heimlich, the guy behind the scenes we seldom see or hear of but who makes the team and organization better because of the tremendous job he does.
Holiday Wish List
It’s the Holiday Season and regardless of your religion or family custom it’s fun to give and receive and Holiday gifts…. Here are a few goodies and a couple lumps of coal to consider.
Gary Bettman… wants more healthy franchises and continued growth of the NHL game.
Canadians…want Santa to bring them another Olympic Gold Medal.
The Red Wings… are asking the guy in the red suit for a few more wins on their home ice of Joe Louis Arena.
Sharkie… dreams of more happy fans to joust with on the SAP Center concourse.
Joe Thornton… can’t wait for more open teammates around the net to receive his precision passes.
Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (the Great 8) …wishes for more clear shots in his quest for 50 goals in 50 games. Currently Ovie has 28 goals in 32 games.
NHL and hockey fans everywhere… are politely asking for a cold day with a light snow in Ann Arbor, Michigan on New Year’s Day. That’s the date of the NHL Winter Classic when the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs clash in the Big House.
The Sharks… are asking good news and for continued production from their top NHL rookie Tomas Hertl.
Kids everywhere… are excited about hockey gifts under the Christmas tree on December 25th. NHL jerseys, stocking hats and mini zambonis will be opened at happy living rooms around the world.
USA Hockey fans … have asked Santa for another Gold Medal game against Team Canada. USA fell in overtime of the 2010 Gold Medal at Vancouver and have revenge on their minds.
Kings fans… are wishing for a speedy recovery of their franchise net-minder Jonathan Quick… in the meanwhile Martin Jones looks like an expensive gift.
Logan Couture hopes to find a bundle of goals under the tree Xmas morning.
Bay Area youth hockey players… are dreaming of the fun they’ll have at their holiday tournaments.
College students returning home for the holidays… have asked Kris Kringle for Sharks tickets to share games with family and friends.
NHL players who hit from behind near the boards… will most certainly find coal in their stockings.
Raffi Torres… is hoping St. Nick brings him a full recovery from his knee injury.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson is asking the fat happy guy from up north for another great deadline deal to help power a strong playoff push.
The Sharks hope you enjoyed their Holiday Card video.
Some referees … may find that the sleigh won’t stop at their homes this year.
The boys in Worcester hope the New Year brings more call ups to the NHL.
Kids who live in cold climates are asking that cold weather and a fresh sheet of ice in the backyard.
Baseball fans might get some thrills watching outdoor hockey in two cathedrals of the game… Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
Santa might have a hard time finding a chimney at SAP Center, but fans will get the gift of four home games between December 21st and January 2nd.
Patrick Marleau is asking for 1,200 more games in a San Jose sweater.
Fans from the Cow Palace days have again asked for a late Xmas gift… one that includes a big silver cup in June.
The Sharks broadcast guys… Dan, Randy, Drew, Jamie, Sean, Darin and I wish Sharks fans everywhere a safe and happy holiday season.
A day in the life on the road in St. Louis:
7:30am - CST Alarm goes off that Siri set for me on iPhone. Thanks Siri.
7:31 - Locate robe.
7:32 Turn on NHL Network. Check last nights highlights
7:35 - Make coffee. Any hotel that doesn’t have a coffee machine in the room cannot become one of my favorite hotels. Ever.
8:00 - Fire up laptop and log into NHL game notes site. Game day process begins.
8:17 - Check last night's leftover calzone from “Sauce On The Side.” Still edible. Salad is not.
9:15 - Catch team bus to Scottrade Center for morning practice
9:30 - Catch up with GM Doug Wilson, Dan Rusanowsky and Drew Remenda. Nashville stories exchanged. Also discuss the question: “What would you do if you won tonight’s lottery?”.
10ish - Watch Sharks hit the ice for morning skate.
10:05 - Chat with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. Happy 62nd birthday, fellow Edmonton native!
10:15 - Enjoy lively discussion with Blues color commentator Darren Pang and assistant coach Brad Shaw. Another Ottawa boy, Jamie Baker, joins in the fun.
11:15 - Join the media scrum to talk to Sharks coach Todd McLellan about tonight's tilt.
11:30 - Back on the bus to hotel.
11:45 - Lunch with the aforementioned Mr. Rusanowsky. French onion soup and tuna melt.
12:30pm - Back in room and more pregame prep.
2 - Gym. Would prefer outdoor run but anything under about 40 degrees turns me into a treadmill runner. Hard to believe I use to be Edmontonian.
4:30 - Bus back to arena.
4:45 - Come up with an idea for Great White Bites that was actually due this morning, write it and file it.
Still to come tonight - game vs Blues, bus to Lambert Field, charter to LAX, bus to hotel near Staples Center and check into room. It better have coffee.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
We are at the 33-game mark of the season, grinding our way through the schedule to the Olympic break in February. But just because it’s the grind stage, and time and space are at a premium, it doesn’t indicate that nothing significant or interesting is happening. To the contrary, over the course of the last few games, a lot of interesting things have happened, including the achievement of several milestones, equaling a club record, and finding ways to make the score 2-0 for or against. Here are a few of those instances:
- For the last seven consecutive games, the Sharks have either led or trailed 2-0 in the game in what I believe is an unprecedented such stretch in club history. They have led 2-0 four times, with a 2-1-1 record, and trailed 0-2 three times, with a 0-3-0 standing. That adds up to a 2-4-1 overall record in those games.
- In the seven games, the Sharks have been outscored 8-16 (-8) when skating 5-on-5. Of the eight goals scored, four have been by defensemen and four by forwards. No Shark has scored more than one 5-on-5 goal in this stretch.
- The Sharks have scored 1 empty-net goal in Toronto, and have allowed two empty-netters in Carolina and in Minnesota.
- With the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, the Sharks have scored two goals in this stretch. In both cases, the goals were scored by Patrick Marleau, and in both cases, the Sharks lost the game (at Minnesota and at Nashville). Against the New York Islanders, Kyle Okposo’s extra-skater goal forced overtime, and the Sharks wound up losing the game in a shootout.
- Since the 2005-06 season, when the shootout came into being, the Sharks have recorded a 168-9-10 record when taking a 2-0 lead or better in a game, including a 13-1-2 record this season. They have not lost more than one such game in regulation in a season for the past five straight years, so that means this year’s regulation loss at Carolina on December 6th constitutes San Jose’s budgeted allotment for the year.
- When down 0-2 or worse in a game, the Sharks are 22-91-14 since the 2005-06 season. This year, they are 0-3-0 so far, and are 0-13-1 in this situation since April 7, 2012, when they trailed 0-2 vs. Los Angeles, and came back to win 3-2 in overtime on a Dan Boyle goal.
- Speaking of winning games in overtime, Sharks hockey has had a defenseman score the game winner in the last 3 regular season games that they’ve won. Since that LA game in 2012, the other winners have come from Brad Stuart (at CGY on Nov. 12th) and Boyle (at VAN on Nov. 14th).
- At Nashville on Saturday, Antti Niemi played in his 200th game wearing a Sharks uniform. Niemi is only the second Sharks goaltender to play in that many games. Evgeni Nabokov played in 563 games over his San Jose career.
- Also at Nashville on Saturday, Patrick Marleau tied a club record when he recorded seven shots on goal in the third period. It’s only the third time in franchise history that such a total has been recorded in one frame, tying the mark originally set by Joe Pavelski on 11/4/08 vs. Minnesota, and equaled by Dany Heatley on 12/3/09 vs. St. Louis. Marleau is the only Shark to record 7 shots on net in a single period on the road.
Those are some of the interesting things that have happened recently. Looking ahead, we have a couple of other milestones on the horizon:
- Joe Thornton is one point away from becoming the second player in Sharks history to score 700 points in a San Jose uniform. With one assist at Nashville, the captain has 167-532-699 while wearing Teal, and his next point will put him in an exclusive club with Marleau, who has 893 points in his Sharks career.
- Marleau will also play in his 1,199th game in St. Louis on Tuesday, and is scheduled to reach his milestone 1,200th game in Los Angeles on Thursday.
- Continuing on the milestone horizon, Logan Couture has 99 career goals, 98 career assists, and 197 career points. Since scoring his last goal into an empty net at Toronto on December 3rd, Logan has played in 6 games, had 2 assists, and has put 28 shots on goal in those contests. As of this writing, he’s second among NHL forwards with 40 blocked shots, and as my broadcast partner Jamie Baker has pointed out, he’s playing “ice bag hockey.” The milestones will come soon for Couture.
- With his recent forays at opposing goaltenders, Couture is 7th in the NHL with 126 shots, and Marleau is right behind in 8th with 124.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “And so, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” That classic phrase sounds fitting for this challenging portion of the NHL season.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky for sjsharks.com.