Saturday, March 5, 2011

Some More Random Thoughts From the Road

If you have had an opportunity to visit with J.P. Dumont, you know that he is one of the most personable and genuine guys there is. J.P. has an ethic that leads him to be involved in many charitable and community activities, often without any fanfare. Yet J.P. has run afoul of the coaches with his play of late. Saturday night at Vancouver, J.P. was not even dressed for the pre-skate. There is no doubt that J.P. has talent and could be a positive contributor for the Predators. However, with the emergence of some of the younger players, notably Blake Geoffrion, I am unsure if J.P. is going to see the ice for a long time.

On the return flight out of Vancouver, I had a chance to sit with Justin St. Pierre, the referee who was injured in the contest with the Canucks. St. Pierre suffered a broken ankle in a collision with several players along the boards. I asked him if he was going to have to have surgery, and his reply was that he would not know until after he spoke with the team doctors for the Blue Jackets. Curious, I asked why he was visiting the team doctors for Columbus, and he told me that is where he lives. He went on to say that he didn't really care to live in Columbus, being a native of Quebec, but that was where the NHL told him he had to live. Apparently, the League disperses its officials across different geographic locales to minimize travel disruptions due to weather or other reasons, and Columbus was chosen as his billet.

The Rogers Centre was sold out, but it was an amazingly docile crowd. Very little cheering save for an occasional "Go Canucks Go" chant. Compared to the boisterous atmosphere in the Bridgestone Arena, the Rogers Centre seemed like a church. Fans of the Predators should know that there are very few in game experiences like the one we have in Nashville.

We think of the road as being tough on our guys, but I can tell you they relish these trips to Canada. For many, it is an opportunity to re-unite with family and friends and have time to visit. I had the occasion to meet several family members and friends of the players and coaches that had traveled to Vancouver to see the team and the game. You could tell by talking to some of the players that they enjoyed being close to home.

Although the team bus broke down in Edmonton, the Predators rolled with the punches thanks to the effort of Director of Hockey Operations Brandon Walker. If you don't know Brandon, he is the man that coordinates all the travel arrangements and logistics for the Predators, both at home and on the road, and is a genuinely nice guy. Once it was determined that the bus was not salvageable for the trip to the airport, the ever resourceful Brandon got on the phone and had 30 taxis brought to Rexall place within the hour and cabbed the team, coaches, and support staff to the charter plane. I spoke to Brandon in Vancouver about the debacle with the bus, and although he could laugh about it then, he said it was frantic for a while.

Speaking of travel, I have had the good fortune to ride on the team charter. The seats are roomy, the plane is always ready for the team after the game, and the players avoid the hassle of going through an airport terminal as they are loaded onto the plane at a charter terminal. Although the long road trips can be tough, the players are well accommodated with their travel arrangements. I appreciate how the guys are treated after this trip after enduring a canceled flight on the way to Seattle and a four hour delay in Chicago on the way back.

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