Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Ekholm Diaries: Rookie Camp

Mattias Ekholm has arrived in Nashville as a 21 year old defensive prospect attempting to make the Predators after playing ad excelling in the Swedish Elite League. He has graciously let us in on his blog that he is submitting back to his hometown newspaper, and in the first installment of his diary, we "listened in" as he talked about transitioning from his home in Sweden to Nashville.

Today, we pick up his diary at the beginning of Rookie Camp.

Serious Work! 9-10-2011

Hello blog! Today we, at last, crept to the start of rookie camp. There was no practice or such. Only physical testing and a group dinner on the schedule. All went smoothly with the doctor, so it was over in 30 minutes. Afterwards we had dinner at “Logan’s Steakhouse”, a restaurant that lies about 25 meters from the hotel. But that is really all the “hockey talk” for today, not so much has happened on that front yet. So, today, we skip it completely!

First, we reveal that we have a little “profile” on the three boys I named yesterday as my best buddies over here! We begin today with a guy named Taylor Beck!

Age: 20

Position: Left Wing

Marital Status: “Don’t know/unknown”

Favorite food: Chinese

Favorite Restaurant: P.F. Changs (Chinese place in Nashville)

Favorite Animal: Panda

Why: “They are cute.”

And the final question, if you should win 10 million kronor, what would you do? Go to Sweden!

(Mattias abruptly shifts gears in the last part of his blog to talk briefly about food- The View)

Have even thought a little about doing some account of the difference in food here versus Sweden! It is a terrible big difference, in certain ways. Like our hotel breakfast, for example, you find something useful in it, so that makes it good, I can say! So, we shall try to get that in, soon!

First “real” practice 9-11-2011

Hello there again!

Today, we kick started this adventure, seriously! First ice practice is over and the feeling is a little mixed afterwards. You notice that there is a difference in the play, if you compare it with play at home! The smaller rinks make it much faster and you must be on watch the whole time. There are small details in the play that you must work on the whole time, but we have already started with that today, so it feels good!

Today’s program consisted of: first, a video meeting at 9:00, followed by on ice practice at 10:30. On ice practice was for about 1.5 hours, fairly hard I must admit, but nice to have a good/tough start so you get into it. Then, after the on ice practice, we had a few more meetings (they really love to have meetings here) and a quick work out in the gym. Was finished by 1:30 and after that was free for the rest of the day. Nice to get a little time to rest up, also!

So, we shall continue the series of profiles on “my best buddies”. Today the luck falls to the physical phenomenon, Mike Latta:

Age: 20

Position: Center

Favorite film: Old School

Favorite fruit or vegetable: Kiwi

Why?: “Tastes delicious”

The final question like yesterday, if you should win 10 million kronor what would you do?: Travel around in Asia, especially in “East Asia”.

Mike comes from Canada, played last year in the Canadian junior league with Guelph Storm. A hard working forward who is not afraid to drop the gloves, so he would concisely describe himself. I think it is an excellent description! Off the ice, he is a really nice guy who is always up and happy, has even a little mischief about him sometimes too . . .

Match Time! 9-12-2011

Hello blog!

Tomorrow, at last, we have a game! We fly at 8:00 in the morning to Florida and will meet Tampa Bay and Florida’s rookie teams. Really fun to play matches again, been several months since the last, so get to see if I remember how it goes! It will probably go well. Today we have cut to one turn on the ice and a bundle of meetings (usual arrangement). Feel good before tomorrow, shall even play a little power play, so it is fun! Have not learned who I will play with or such, but there are 7 defensemen who go, so I would predict that we take turns with seven. Doesn’t matter, it will only be great to get to play a match again!

Otherwise, the day has not offered so horribly much that you would enjoy to read about, but I can go through it a little quick! After practice, lunch was on the schedule which I had at some salad bar nearby. In the afternoon, I have just taken it easy, played some cards with “the boys” and basically just relaxed.

Then around 7 we went out for dinner, an Italian restaurant a little bit away. Luck so happens, one of those who played in Nashville last year hangs out with us, so we have a chauffeur to the finer place! I ate some type of pasta with a little chicken and mushrooms in it, real good, in fact! And best of all, I won what they call “the credit card game”. It means, in short, that all place their credit card in a cap, then you call the waiter who picks out card after card and the card that is remaining last, he takes and pays the whole dinner with! So, really nice - a free dinner. There were only 5 of us, so it was not too bad a bill. But always nice to avoid it!

The first match is over! 9-13-2011

Then the first match of the season was over. In rainy Florida, today we beat Tampa Bay’s “rookie team” 7-3, to be honest they were not particularly sharp! For my own part, it was a little up and down I must admit. It is such a big difference from playing in Sweden! The first period was really hard. Everyone, so to speak, only dumps and chases in this rookie game. No structure what so ever! But after awhile you come to see how the play goes here. I should be able to explain it a little quick, in situations where I am used to skating at home, you don’t need to here. So, since I am used to the play at home, I waste energy in the wrong place.

I got, in fact, to take a shootout shot today. It was after the “real match”. Beforehand they had already decided there would be a shootout. So I got trusted to take the fifth and last shot. The shootout was already decided when it was my turn (the score was 1-3) so I thought to try something extra in the form of a classic “Foppa shootout shot”. I got the goalie perfectly, but failed to get the wretched puck inside the goal post! Lucky, that it didn’t mean all that much to the team.

Otherwise, we have had a rainy day here in Florida, when we arrived this morning it was a heavy downpour, I’ve never been in something like it. It is early “hurricane season” here just now, so it was absolutely nothing unusual with a little lightning and thunder.

I met up with Markström for a little while this evening, he plays, as is well known, in Florida’s organization. Really nice to get to talk a little crap in Swedish for once, he will play in tomorrow’s battle. So, I think we will get at least a couple!

Back in Nashville! 9-14-2011

Yes, back in Nashville, again!

It’s always nice to come “home”, again. We will go through the match we played today. We will begin by saying that we took another victory! 3-1 against Florida, must say that I pulled myself up a good bit and it felt more like there was a little play in this match. Yesterday, it was just people everywhere and no structure at all! So this match was clearly a step in the right direction, the passes were placed a little better today, and I had it a little easier, in general. Could have been a little “first match nerves” yesterday – always a little tense when you try to impress the club’s management while at the same time it is the first match! But nice to have gotten through all of that and now it is only to push!

The match was otherwise a fairly even affair; it completely felt like it could have gone either way, but nice that we were able to sew it up in the end. Markström played the whole match for Florida and did well I must say, only pity that I couldn’t get one. We have a fellow named Craig Smith who has really earned praise, he made 6 goals in the 2 matches! So, there you have a guy who has every chance to play in “the show” (NHL) this winter.

Must say that it was nice to live in a different hotel for variety’s sake! I must tell you what happened last night, I went and lay down around 11:30 PM and at approximately 1:58 AM the world’s loudest fire alarm rang! I flew up out of bed, out through the door and people ran panicked down the stairs! No clothes on us, only underpants, we put on the rest, and ran out. Lucky it was in Florida, it isn’t particularly cold there at night. In any case, we stood outside while a number of fire vehicles came and investigated the hotel. It took only 40 minutes until they discovered that some (idiot?) had smoked in the lobby and set off the alarm, smart!

Tomorrow we return to “everyday” again, little later practice than usual (A sleep in morning, Yippie!) Don’t have to be down on the rink before around noon, really nice to get to sleep in a little! They said we will have a light practice session and then begin seriously on Friday with tests! Although, I have heard a little rumor that we “rookies” will do the tests on Thursday, so there isn’t so many people on Friday. That should mean that we have Friday free!

Bad Night! 9-15-2011

Hello there again!

All goes as usual, one day is like the other, little sleep in the morning – not bad! Right nice. Got up about 9:00, brushed up the room and watched a little TV from home. By 12 we went down to the rink for an hour of on ice practice of the easier sort! Purely rehab purposes really, for tomorrow we have the skating test on the schedule! A terribly hard test where you skate a loop marked by cones, it takes about 25-30 seconds to skate, and you skate it 6 times with 30 seconds of rest in between! Then they add together all the times and get an average, so it means save energy and don’t spend it all at first! Must post a report tomorrow morning about how it went. We have to get up and do it at 7.

Otherwise, it has been calm. Dinner was at a fairly nice restaurant named “Stoney River”. I had a small piece of meat which was not bad at all! Then, unfortunately, this evening there were six of us at the table and in usual order it was the “credit card game.” Since it was a nicer place the bill was high! And of course, he picked my card out of the hat last, really tough when the total price was around 250 dollars! Rounds to about 1700 Swedish kronor for a piece of meat! (Yippie!) Only thing to do is cough up the dough, so not the best evening for my part!

As I said we have the skating test tomorrow at 7:00, after that it is a completely free day. Right nice must I say! Take a little relaxation and recharge the batteries for the “Big camp” which begins on Friday! It will be a lot of fun to meet all the NHL stars they have here! Only recharge the batteries and give it all! And that is exactly what I will do, now! The bed waits. So, have a good day!

It is interesting to see how Ekholm had already bonded with guys like Roman Josi, Mike Latta, and Taylor Beck. Credit goes to Marty Gelinas, the Predators Director of Player Development for starting that process and forging the bonds with these young players that helps to make their transition easy.

As you read Mattias' blog, one can almost get a sense of his bemusement at being in a country that is markedly different from his own. Yet, there are still similarities, especially among the athletes, in their approach to practice and life outside the rink. Sounds like Mattias is batting .500 in the credit card game.

Nice that Mike Santorelli could hang with some of his old team mates while they were in Florida.

Once again, a big stick tap to Patricia Blair, who has down a marvelous job in translating Mattias' blog.

In the next edition, we will pick up his entries from the start of training camp.

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