Eight days and seven nights: To pass time, Wings sleep, eat and go to movies
December 18, 2001
BY HELENE ST. JAMES
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
The Red Wings resumed their favorable early schedule with a home game Monday night, one day after returning from just their second extensive stretch away from home, family and Joe Louis Arena.
The trip, which began Dec. 9 with a long flight from Detroit to Calgary, continued on mid-week to Edmonton, and ended Sunday after a stop in Vancouver, was the lengthiest yet of the season, lasting eight days and seven nights. That's a long time to be gone, with a lot of free hours looming between practices and games. But through resilience and experience, the Wings made the best of being on the road again.
SUNDAY, DEC. 9: Kris Draper woke up around 8 in the morning and ate breakfast with his wife, Julie, and their 21-month-old daughter, Kennedi. Afterward he chased Kennedi around the house, read to her, played a few games, and then had to do the toughest part of all.
"You give her a kiss good-bye, but she obviously doesn't understand that you're going to be gone," Draper said. "But when I called home in the evening, it was about 6 in Detroit, she was in the bath, but as soon as my wife put her on the phone, she said, 'Hi, Daddy.' So that makes you feel nice, that as soon as she hears the phone ring, that's what she thinks, 'Oh, it's Daddy calling.' "
Once in Calgary, Draper headed for a steak house with roommate Kirk Maltby and Boyd Devereaux. Then it was back to the hotel to relax. Draper always takes the bed closest to the window, but because they were staying in a suite with two televisions, he made some adjustments.
"I pulled my mattress out onto the couch and set up shop," Draper said. "That way we each had our own little rooms."
Cohabiting with Maltby is a new venture for Draper, who for years roomed with Chris Osgood, now a New York Islander. There have been adjustments, but they haven't been difficult.
"Ozzie, geez, that was a guy that put sleep as his No. 1 priority," Draper said. "Malts and I enjoy shutdowns too, but Ozzie, Ozzie was a world-class sleeper. He's as good as it gets."
MONDAY, DEC. 10: Because he wasn't going to start that night against Calgary, backup goaltender Manny Legace stayed on the ice for about 45 minutes during the morning skate. He went back to the hotel, where everyone had the team meal, and then left roommate Sergei Fedorov in peace.
"Sergei slept in the afternoon, so I went and watched 'Behind Enemy Lines,' " Legace said. "It was excellent, but I was disappointed in the ending. After that, I went to the game and slept on the bench."
While Legace napped, the Wings lost, 2-0, to the Flames.
TUESDAY, DEC. 11: First things first. Any day on the road that isn't a game day and doesn't have practice until early afternoon, the players' No. 1 priority is simple.
"You sleep late," Mathieu Dandenault said. "After practice, you look for a little downtime, so I went back to my room for a couple of hours and read. I like adventure books, science fiction, anything like that."
Later came dinner at a steak house, with roommate Jesse Wallin, Devereaux and trainer John Wharton, and they watched a hockey game on television as they ate. Each player gets a per diem in the $70 range, but that doesn't always stretch through dinner.
"You drink a nice wine -- and that's the thing, there are a lot of wine guys on the team, and so you sit there, and sometimes it gets expensive," Dandenault said. "But that's what's nice about being on the road: You get to see a lot more of all the guys that have families and so you don't see them a lot in Detroit."
Like Draper, Dandenault prefers the window bed. Because he has seniority over Wallin, it's not an issue -- unlike the time he roomed with Darren McCarty. "He made me sleep on the short side," Dandenault said. "But I tried not to let it affect me."
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12: The Wings got up early, flew to Edmonton, endured the 40-minute bus ride to their hotel, and had lunch before going off to an early afternoon practice. Afterward, Luc Robitaille had dinner with several teammates.
"Brent Gilchrist got us a place because he used to play here," Robitaille said. "A bunch of guys went to the movies, but I just went back to my room and watched a movie. I was going to watch 'The Score' on pay-per-view, but there was a movie on, I think it was called 'Most Wanted,' that I hadn't seen, so I just watched that. Not very exciting."
Knowing roommate McCarty's fondness for the window bed, Robitaille has acquiesced.
"I always get the bed closest to the bathroom," Robitaille said, then laughed. "He gets to shut the drapes."
THURSDAY, DEC. 13:Once again, Legace found himself in the backup role, meaning another afternoon loomed free and open. "There was a shopping mall near the hotel, so I just went there and shopped around for a bit," Legace said. "Then I got tired, so I snuck back into the room."
Although Fedorov has been with the Wings far longer than Legace, the two have come to an understanding since they became roommates last spring. That's when Nicklas Lidstrom "got rid of Sergei and pawned him off on me," Legace said. "I run the room. I get to sleep in the bed on the left. Sergei, he just likes to play on his computer a lot, and he's always on the phone. So I get control of the TV."
After the game, a 2-1 victory over the Oilers, the Wings flew on to Vancouver.
FRIDAY, DEC. 14: Lidstrom had breakfast around 9:30 a.m., meeting roommate Fredrik Olausson, who already had arrived at the hotel restaurant. ("Yes," Lidstrom said, "but I was up before him the other day. Yesterday.")
Shortly afterward the Wings had a mandatory team meeting, lunch and then practice. Having been to the movies once already during the week, to see "Ocean's Eleven," Lidstrom had more pressing concerns to wrap up while enjoying a free afternoon in Vancouver.
"I have to do some Christmas shopping for my family," he said. "I have some done, but not much."
Because it was the last night on the road without a game, the entire team went out for dinner later.
SATURDAY, DEC. 15: While the players and coaching staff are sleeping or relaxing, equipment manager Paul Boyer and the training staff are usually packing or unpacking equipment. Before the players show up for the morning skate, all their laundry will have been done, socks passed out, jerseys hung by stalls and skates sharpened.
A 3-0 loss to the Canucks caused no change in the postgame routine. Players took off their equipment, showered, dressed and left. The uniforms were hung back up to dry and left for the night before being repacked.
Having done the job now for seven-plus years, Boyer can recognize any piece of equipment in or out of a player's bag.
"Nick has these two pieces of foam to stick beneath the tongues on his skate to prevent lace bite," Boyer said. "They have to be 8-10 years old. When I unpack his bag, those are the two things that I look for. I'm amazed they've lasted this long, ever since he's been here."
SUNDAY, DEC. 16: Because the Wings had a game Monday rather than a customary two-day break after a long trip, coach Scotty Bowman opted to have the players get a good night's sleep Saturday instead of flying directly home. The team landed in Detroit late Sunday afternoon, faced with an entire week at home to enjoy some of life's better pleasures.
"My wife and I take Kennedi for little walks around our neighborhood," Draper said. "She points at the Christmas lights that are up, and she doesn't know the colors, but she yells, 'Oh, red, green . . .' It's a fun time of year, and a tough time to leave for a week. But we can't complain."