Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ekholm Diaries: Training Camp

The intensity and the action goes up several levels for our Mattias Ekholm and all the rookies, as the veterans report to camp and the competition for roster spots begins.This is going to be a rather lengthy post as we are going to follow Ekholm through the entire training camp, so here we go...

Entry thirteen- 9-16-2011

Entry thirteen already, it has gone fast I must say! Soon, I will have been here two weeks, feels like three days.

The day, offered an early morning, the alarm rang at 6:30. Got up, ate a little breakfast, then down to the rink for this year’s skating test. Terribly hard, but I must say that it went better than expected. I bettered my time from the summer by more than a second! Really good to get a little acknowledgement that I trained properly. Afterwards, it was really calm before I was picked up by our Swedish “star” here in the form of Patric Hörnqvist. It was really nice that I was invited to lunch and a tour of his, to say the least, fine home. Cool to see where you can end up, if you work hard in hockey here!

Day 1 9-17-2011


I planned to make a little report about the day’s exploits as “Main Camp” (So they call the big training camp) started today! However, no ice today, only a lot of different tests! They are really careful to check up on all of the players’ health over here. I really have had my whole body examined.

The day began with a % body fat measurement. I have no answer on what mine is, but I have been told I’ll probably get it during the week. After that, we did all the “off-ice tests”, really easy tests, in fact. Little stamina, muscle strength, and wrists. I thought it felt good, about the same as summer camp. After that, it was time for a thorough check up with tests: teeth, eyes, blood test, agility, urine test, and some flu shot. Should have been a quick little eye test, but it was fairly unpleasant because you got eye drops which made the pupils dilate and you couldn’t see much! It stayed that way, in fact, until early in the afternoon before it stopped and you could see normally, was very sensitive to bright light the whole day!

So that was my morning, then in the afternoon there was the “team dinner”, a little inauguration of the season with speeches from several coaches and general managers. They even honored those who died in this tragic hockey summer. Especially, the former Nashville player, Wade Belak (Rest in Peace!) who they showed a real nice video about, many who were nearby shed a tear during this! Many who currently play here were close to him, tragic.

Then we were away and bought some poker chips to pass time with. It becomes tough, really easily, in the hotel when we have several hours to kill. So they make it easier big time! Tomorrow it is time to listen and give all! Should be really fun to push myself hard and truly fight for a spot here, so good luck to me.

First day, check! 9-18-2011

Today we started on ice work with a regular tempo, really fun! It feels a little great to skate around with all of these NHL stars, but you never get to admit it, only see them as competitors! It is tremendously inspiring to get to be with them and get a picture of what is required to play in “The Show”. Nashville, now, in fact, possesses one of the league’s best defensive groups, so it is really good for me to get to see and learn from these guys! You pick up a lot of small things the whole time, or try to at least, as much as possible!

Must say it feels good after the first ice practice, thought it felt very good, overall. Legs hung in well despite the different tests earlier in the week and my focus was good almost the whole practice. Was a little tired toward the end, I admit, but I am still happy with my first practice, here. Was a fairly tough ice practice, almost 1.5 hours. It began with some skating technique drills, followed with 1 hour of game drills. Going through Nashville’s systems, there is a lot to think about, but so it should be at the beginning of the season!

After that, followed up with a little work in the gym, media and shower! Had lunch at a little pasta place in town. Good food, I must say, for it was a little fast food like restaurant! But nothing wrong with the food, I think. After that it was the obligatory “chat-hour” before everyone goes to bed, there at home. Called home to mom and dad, girlfriend, and talked with some buddies! Have about 1 to 2 hours you can do it before it becomes too late at home in dear Sweden!

I can report that I won the “credit card game” today. Really nice, so we earned back the dough lost earlier in the week! We ate dinner at an Italian place where, in fact, the owner knew us; he is a big Predators-fan. So he offered us free dessert after the meal.

Otherwise, tomorrow looks exactly like today. Same times, for example, practice at 11:30 then free for the rest of the day! Match on Monday, so I’d like to have a good practice tomorrow as we prepare for the Florida trip! But that is all for today ladies and gentleman. Thanks and goodbye!

Match Time! 9-19-2011

Today’s agenda was, in fact, exactly like yesterdays! Up at 8:30, breakfast, and then down to the rink. There we continued with meetings (Yup, they like meetings here), went through game details, presumably, nothing you would think is especially entertaining. So, we skip it. After that it was on with things, and out on the ice. 1.5 hours today, tough practice, I must say. A lot of skating, but it is good, because you get in form quickly.

I am quite happy with today, it feels better and better every ice session that passes. I learn new things and pick up things the whole time. Really nice to feel that it goes in the right direction, especially now when there are matches in the coming days, we will, as you know, go to Florida tomorrow for two matches. Since there is so many of us, just now, we play one match at 3:00 PM and the other at 7:30 PM, or some such. I will play in the later. We will go home directly afterwards, so we don’t have a hotel where you can prepare, probably go around the rink and watch a few hours . . . Everyone doesn’t get the opportunity to play, so we will not complain!

Then there is a match on Tuesday, away against Washington, but there is only 1 match, so we must see how it goes, if I play or not. Just give it all tomorrow, so we get to see how long it can go. Saw that Markström will play the second match, so we must try to crush one there this time!

Otherwise, the evening has not offered so very much, little card playing, and call home. Went and ate at the Chinese place where they cook in front of you, again. Very good again, then I got the news that I got the bill, again! (D*N!) Believe that is the end of that crap game, now.

Must see if there will be time to update tomorrow, since we fly home immediately after the match, it might be a little tight, there. We must simply see how it goes. But now you are, in any case, warned that there may not be an entry tomorrow!

Back on track! 9-22-2011

Hello there again!

I must first and foremost explain why updating has been poor the last two days. It is fairly simple, lack of time. There has been two away matches, first against Florida Monday evening and then against Washington before 13,000 (99% Washington fans) in Baltimore.

We will go through the days. It began with the flight to Florida at 9:00 Monday morning. We got there by lunch and bussed directly to the arena for those who played the first match. We played two matches since we still have 50-some players remaining with the team. The first match for the split squad was at 3:30 and our match was at 7:00. Those of us who played at 7 got a day room at the hotel so we could prepare a few hours with sleep, or whatever you prefer!

The match was fairly even. We took an early 2-0 lead, but they came back and won 4-3, unfortunately. Was an experience for me since it was my very first “NHL preseason match”. I was, in fact, a little nervous before the match, I will say, but I thought that I managed decently, overall. Got a lot of playing time and had a good feel throughout the match. Always nice to get by the first game nerves, it doesn’t work to check them, they show up at special events.

After the match it was straight to the airport and fly home. I will say briefly that the airplane, itself, is probably the finest I have flown on. The seats are like a big leather sofa almost! World-class. Well, on the plane I found out that I was on the team that would go to Baltimore and meet Washington the next evening. So, at the hotel there was no time to write an entry, prioritized sleep there . . .

The next day we had a little morning warm up, 45 minutes, a little practice on the ice to skate off the previous days match and get ready to go again. Then lunch and out to the airport, again! This time the flight went to the city of Baltimore, a city which lies outside Washington. (Don’t know how far) But an arena of 13,000 and it was full, always fun when a lot of people are at the match!

But the big thing with this match was that they played their 6 best players plus some juniors. In other words, Ovechkin, Bäckstöm, Semin, Green, Laich, Knuble played! Real fun! They are, despite all, childhood idols, but all such respect you must sweep under the rug when the puck is dropped!

The match was a fairly even affair! We traded little chances back and forth, but in the end we won the match 2-0. For my own part, I liked it, not a great match, but fairly stable. Fun that I continue to get the trust to play all situations, I have played both penalty kill and power play in both matches.

So there has been a lot of hockey these 2 days as you, perhaps, can imagine! Little difficult to find occasion to “blog”, must apologize for that! So now, in the coming days, several matches await. Tomorrow there is only practice, but then we have a match on Friday and Saturday! Friday’s match is in Carolina and Saturday at home in Nashville, so we must see if I get to play one of the two. Keep your fingers crossed!

Match tomorrow, or? 9-23-2011

Yes, that is the question, match tomorrow or not? I have, in fact, no answer, just now. Currently, I will not play tomorrow’s away match with Carolina, but one of the defensemen who will play is a little injured. So, therefore, I’ve been told that I should be ready in the morning to travel with the team! So we must let time decide, that simple!

Today has, otherwise, been calm. Nice, if you ask me, after the two matches at the beginning of the week. Breakfast at 10, and then down to the rink. Today’s schedule included an on ice practice for about 1.5 hours, after that a quick change, and in the gym for about 30 minutes. Nothing hard, mostly to maintain strength training.

I will capture a little difference which you really see here compared to Sweden. During my gym session today one of the coaches came in and said that the “management” (Coaches, scouts and general managers) wanted to meet with me when I was finished. Okay, I said, and immediately my pulse shot up to 1000. When I went in there in front of all of them, they only told me that I should be prepared to, perhaps, play tomorrow. Know, well, in Sweden the coaches come over and say that straight out, nothing more to it. But, now, when they all want to meet you, you manage to, well, think one thing and then another. But as luck had it this time, I was neither sent home, nor had I done something dumb!

Afterwards, the day was passed with a little poker playing and dinner at “Stoney River”, the fine restaurant where I lost my first “credit card game”! But today it went better, avoided the bill, so now we work again, here! Otherwise, I don’t know what I should report about a day such as this, we don’t have a lot to do besides poker. Oh, by the way, today we downloaded the American equivalent of “wordfeud”. Scrabble in English, really addicting I must say! If you want to take part in this game, it is named “Words with Friends”. A lot of fun when it is another language, little more challenging.

Day 19 9-24-2011

Yes, as you see in the headline, I have been here 19 days now, feels like 3 months, in fact. Hotel life is not always as luxurious as it sounds. Like now, when we only practice, the days can be really tough with not much other than card games to entertain you. Lucky, that there is a group of us who live in the hotel here, makes the days go much faster than they would normally!

We will step through the day a little quick, I can begin with - there was no match. We practiced on ice at 12 for about an hour. Nothing hard, mostly, little competitions and battles. It was nice to have a little calmer practice, since I will play tomorrow. It will be terribly fun to play before the home fans! The opponent is the new team in the NHL this season, the Winnipeg Jets. So now, I’m recharging the batteries for a discharge tomorrow. I have heard a little rumor that there will be a fairly big thinning out of players after the match tomorrow, so it’s the last chance to make an impression!

Otherwise, the day has been spent taking it easy, only relaxing at the hotel and playing cards. (Slam!) Then a little dinner and crap talk!

Match + NFL debut! 9-26-2011

Hello again blog! Must ask you to excuse me for not making an entry yesterday, I will share a little more today, instead!

Yes, yesterday was match day again, first home match of the preseason and first ever for me! The day began with breakfast at 8, then down to the rink for a short warm up on ice for about half an hour. Then lunch at an Italian place (Maggianos), unbelievably good pasta there! After that it was back to the hotel and the usual match routine each has. Myself, I don’t have one so much, at all. Usually, I try to sleep one hour, anyway, and then just take it easy and recharge!

The day’s opponent was the Winnipeg Jets. The match began with a really bad first period by us which we lost 0-2. We got a boot in the intermission and went out and won the second clearly 4-1, a good period from our side, 3 power play goals! The match ended with the score 4-3. For my own part, it went a little in waves, which perhaps you understand, a worse first period, then I played better and better in step with the team raising itself.

It was an awesome experience to play in front of the home fans. There is starting to be a really big interest in hockey in the Country Music City! There were, in fact, almost 14,000 at the match. There was a really good atmosphere (except in the first, perhaps) the whole evening.

I can happily report that I have cleared the first big cut down of players. 20-some players were sent down to the farm team yesterday, but I am still here, so it is huge fun! Just keep grinding, here. There are 11 of us defensemen still in camp. Two are injured. So, there are not too many who still have to go away, in fact.

Today, we got, for the first time in 3 weeks, a whole day off! Really nice to get to rest up a little. I thought the day would be spent at the hotel taking it easy. But we had a quick change of plans! One of the coaches had two tickets to the day’s American football game with the Tennessee Titans which is Nashville’s team’s name! So, we (Roman Josi and I) went down and watched the game played between the home team and the Denver Broncos. It is one thing which you almost must do when you are over here!

The arena held almost 70,000 (And I thought it was cool to play in front of 14 . . . .) and almost sold out. Perfect tickets about 15 rows from the field. The sun shined the whole game, so it was a perfect game, simply. I will admit that I did not know the rules so well before the game, but you learn really quickly. Very enjoyable sport to watch, in fact. But the coolest was probably, above all, the atmosphere in there, seeing 65,000 shrieking fans all at the same time! Not every day one gets to experience something like that.

The game itself could not have been better; Tennessee came back and won with a “Touchdown” with about 4 minutes remaining! The fans were crazy, they high fived with everyone around them and happiness was total! It was a really fun experience which I would gladly do again. It is almost impossible to try to describe how big football is over here. But it was fun!

After the match we went out and about with Patric Hörnqvist and got a fine dinner and hung out a bit. It was nice to be away from the hotel and out and about! Appreciate it! Then we relaxed a little in the evening and prepared for practice tomorrow. We have a match on Wednesday, again!

Entry 21 9-27-2011

Hello again, entry 21 today! I have, exactly on the day, passed 3 weeks since I landed here and I continue in the race, it feels really cool! Today we started practice at 9:00 in the gym, followed by meetings before the on ice practice. (Yup, they like meetings over here) On ice practice was, as usual, about 1.5 hours with quite a lot of stand and watch today, in fact. Happens when we go through game systems and such, becomes no real fire in practice, but such is hockey life in the preseason!

But it felt good to be back on the ice again after the free Sunday we had. No problem, except that I, in some strange way, managed to be head butted by the back of someone’s head, so my lip split a little bit. I got 2 stitches, but no big thing, mostly a precaution. I carried on with practice after the little incident, so not serious at all!

After practice, had lunch at Subway and then back to the hotel for a little conversation with home and then only relaxed. (Begins to be a daily routine, now) I got half an hour of sleep in the afternoon, real nice. So, I have the energy to stay awake.

I was invited to dinner with Hörnqvist again today. Real good guy, I must add. He invited me and Roman (My best buddy here from Switzerland) to his house and cooked for us. Today, we had steak and potatoes, really good! He takes care of us, like a little extra papa, you could say!

Otherwise, nothing that happened today is worth taking up here. I will see tomorrow if I get the chance to play the home match on Wednesday, Washington comes to visit! Would be fun, so we must keep our fingers crossed, I will report about it tomorrow!

Tough day 9-28-2011

Hello, again!

Today was really like any other day. Nothing fun happened except that we went to the movie! Began the day as usual with gym at 9:30, then meetings (Yup, they like to meet over here) followed by on ice practice for about 1.5 hours. In other words, same as usual!

After that we went to the shopping center where the theater is and ate lunch and strolled around a little, then we watched an early movie. We saw Moneyball. A baseball film with Brad Pitt. Completely, okay I think! I had expected a little more, perhaps, because there has been a lot of talk about the film over here! Not that it was bad, but I had, well, perhaps, expected a little more.

After that we drove to dinner at a steakhouse down in the city, loaded up with a big steak before the match tomorrow! I will play tomorrow! Real fun, as you know at home against Washington. I will play with the Finn, Teemu Laakso, who I have played with a few matches, now. It has worked well! He is a defensively strong back, so I have someone who can clean up during my offensive outings! I have not heard how big interest is, but we hope for a lot of people! Not really the same conditions with the weekend and premiere like last home game, but we will see how many people think to come!

You must satisfy yourself with a shorter entry today, because, simply, not a fig has happened over here worth reporting . . . but I will try to squeeze in an entry after the match tomorrow. On Thursday the team goes to Winnipeg for a match on Friday, so must see if I get to go or not! Now we will get a few hours sleep. Good night!

Long time no see 9-30-2011

Hello again!

There were several days with less free time, here. It began Wednesday with the match at home against Washington which we succeeded to comeback in after a little mistake from me and in the end won 4-1. I somehow successfully managed to trip at the blue line, leading to a breakaway, and they scored. Nothing to do but shake it off and I think it went okay after that! I got to play quite a bit (Around 18-19 minutes) and continued to play on the power play!

I was home at the hotel after the match by 11:00 and we had to be at the airport at 9:00 the following morning. So, once again, I prioritized sleep over writing here. (Sorry) We flew on Thursday morning to Winnipeg for today’s match. Had an easy practice yesterday afternoon and a quick warm up this morning!

The happy news is that I, in fact, will play this evening which I really had not believed because we go with 9 defensemen and there were 3 who did not play against Washington. So, I simply thought it was their turn, but I will play! Really fun. I have heard that it will be a sell out and TV this evening! Really nice!

So, I will go and get my afternoon nap that I always have before a match! I will make an update before the match tomorrow, so that it is not so long between times. Have the best, so long!

Match 10-1-2011

Hello again!

Must be quick here again, because, namely, I will play again this evening. I will make a longer report on these two matches this evening after I come home!

I can say that we won yesterday’s match against Winnipeg 3-2 in a shootout! I, also, made my first point during the match, an assist on the 2-1 goal. But I will return with a little better analysis of the match this evening.

I will, also, play again this evening, 3rd match in 4 days! Good that I experience this many matches direct! Carolina waits on home ice at 7:00 American time (about 2:00 AM at home).

I will take my afternoon nap now, so we will talk this evening. Bye!

Summary of the week 10-3-2011

Hello blog!

I will begin with an explanation for the fairly poor updating I did this last week. There has been a lot of traveling and a lot of matches. I began the week with pretty good updates, overall. Then came matches Wednesday, Friday and Saturday! So, we will make a summary of the week, here and now!

The match on Wednesday, we have already gone through, so enough of it. It ended, as we know, with a win against Washington. Then the next morning, we hopped on the plane to Winnipeg, we went the day before the match because of the longer plane ride (about 2 hrs and 40 min). After we arrived we had a practice session, of the easier type, followed by an afternoon/evening on our own. We spent it just relaxing in the room and went out to eat dinner. (As usual) Then, on Friday it was time for the match! The new team in the NHL for this season, Winnipeg was, again, the opponent and the match was fairly even.

We began well in the first period and quickly took hold of the match, it felt even good for my part. Then they worked themselves into the match more and more. It stood 2-2 after regulation and overtime, so the match went to a shootout. There we made the first and only shootout goal! So, we won 3-2. I even got to throw in an assist on the 2-1 goal which was my first point in a Nashville sweater. Little nice to have that out of the way, so it doesn’t become a curse.

After the match we had to pack things as fast as possible, and then off to the airport and home to Nashville, again. We landed at 2 AM and I was in bed by 3 AM! So, it was a little tough when I woke up on Saturday morning. But it was nice that we skipped the morning warm up. So, the only time we had to prepare for was the gathering 2 hours before the start of the match. It was the last preseason game for this year, at home against Carolina. My third match in four days. Will not complain at all, only happy to get to play the matches!

The match was a goalless affair the first two periods, 0-0 before the last period. Still, I think the play went fairly well for my part. This match, I played with the Canadian junior star, Ryan Ellis. It worked very well. So, 0-0 before the last period, then Carolina took an early 1-0 lead. Then we got a power play goal immediately, thereafter, to tie. Then this match, too, went to overtime, but there we were able to bang in the winning goal! Fairly unbelievable preseason with only one loss in eight matches, I believe it was! (Pity that they don’t count)

Yes, the preseason is completely finished! Now, the fun begins. Where it begins for me is, well, still a little unclear. I have not had any indications, so far. We will see in the morning at practice if we get some new information. So, for all who wonder, I have no news to give, only have patience and wait.

Today, (Sunday) has been a free day from hockey. So, I have just taken it easy at the hotel. I, also, went out and got some teeth work done, after a little incident during yesterday’s match. So a little rehab day with a lot of lying in bed and watching TV! That is all for today, I shall try to update the blog here as soon as I get some news, if I get to take a spot or not!

Now, I can even pass on information to follow me, because today I started a Twitter account. If you have this little social network, I go under the name MatEkh14. So, check in there and follow me! Goodnight!

A lot to enter 10-5-2011

Hello again blog!

There wasn’t an entry yesterday for several reasons, none that I want to go into. I still get to hold some things secret. Can say that I got a completely different message from what I got first, so now I don’t know a lot, only take it day by day. Anything in the world can happen!

But I feel good and I have continued to practice with the team the whole time. I am, currently, one of 23 who have been announced for the first match. I try to fight on and show that I want to play, also! So, both of these days (Monday and Tuesday) have in principle looked exactly the same! On ice practice at 10:30, and before that, a half hour in the gym and various meetings. (Yup, they continue to like meetings) Practices have been about 1 hour long, some final polishing before Friday!

Otherwise, if feels like I haven’t managed to do much during my free time beyond talking on the phone. Oh, I had a dentist visit on Monday and fixed little things there! Not fun, but always nice to have it done. Very fine office they have here, you get your own little TV beside the lamp so you can watch it. And the time went, in fact, much faster when I could watch some sports while they fixed my teeth!

No, I have, in fact, nothing really fun to report at the moment. I am beginning to be bloody tired of our hotel, now. But you know that already, so nothing new.

Several things jump out to me from Mattias' writing. He seems amazingly calm about games ("matches") although he did admit to nerves for the first one.

In his entry for 10/3, he mentions that he is unsure of where he will begin the season, and the fact that he made the Predators roster is just sort of a matter of fact, afterthought statement in his 10/5 entry.

I liked how he referred to Patric Hornqvist as "a little extra papa", but was really appreciative of how Hornqvist has taken an interest in his fellow countrymen.

I enjoyed his perspective of playing his first game in front of the Nashville fans.

Oh yeah, the Predators like team meetings.

In the next installment, we will follow Mattias through the opening week of the season,

Once again, a major stick tap to Patricia Blair, who has done a marvelous job translating these entries from Swedish to English.

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