Blog August 23rd – Travel to Finland and games against Switzerland and Russia
Sorry I haven’t written before, we have had some issues with Internet but everything is fixed now and it is fast and furious!
We are here in Viermaki, Finland for the 8 or maybe its called the 12 Nations tournament (im confused as of how many we are because we do not play every country here. We play 6 games. Switzerland, Russia, Slovakia, USA, Finland and Sweden in that order).
I made the first day of travel quite exciting for myself! First by forgetting to check-in my luggage all the way to Helsinki and secondly by getting searched quite intensely at the Frankfurt airport. The plan was a 3pm departure from Montreal to Toronto followed by a 6:25pm Flight to Frankfurt. Then I lose sight of the timing but 2 hours layover there and then 2:30 flight to Helsinki. Finally topping it off with a 1:30 bus ride to the Finish Sport Institute in Vierumaki.
I met teammates Catherine Ward, Meghan Agosta and rookie Emmanuelle Blais at the airport in Montreal to realize that I was the only one who didn’t check my luggage all the way to Helsinki. Perhaps a rookie mistake but it should not really a problem since we have 2:30 in Toronto before we fly to Europe and I should have plenty of time to pick up my luggage in Toronto and check-in for my flights to Europe. That was until our flight is delayed almost 90minutes out of Montreal. Let’s say that the more we were getting delayed on our departure, the more anxious I was getting. Not sure I was able to quite enjoy the movie ‘’ Never Say Never’’ as much as I would in a regular state of being. I’m not a major fan of Justin Bieber and would not have been able to give you the name of one of his songs but his story his quite amazing. The determination and confidence he has allowed him to become so successful so quickly. He is quite talented as well but you can see that he has worked so hard to make it.
We landed about 20 minutes before the film ended so I will have to finish sometime. I want to! As you perhaps know the international flights close 1 hour before the departure time! We landed at 5:10pm, I ran to the luggage belt and by the 1 hour time limit I was still waiting for my luggage to come and sweating profusely! But luckily both my clothes and hockey bag came out pretty quickly. I then made the very important decision to leave my sticks behind praying that one, I would make it to check in and secondly, that our Hockey Canada equipment manager had packed some of my Reebok sticks in the team stick bag!
Thankfully for Amber, our program coordinator, who used her charm to convince the Lufthansa agent to wait with my tickets and luggage tags I was able to check in! I ran from the 1st level of the Toronto airport to the Departure level on the 3rd floor with both my luggage and hockey equipment. Ended being quite the workout for this supposedly day off for travels. I was so happy to finally meet my teammates at the gate and realize that not too many knew about my rookie mistake!
When we arrived to Frankfurt, we had to go through the security again for our next flight to Helsinki. During the process of walking through the metal detectors I started beeping! I knew exactly what that meant, let me tell you they don’t go easy on the search there. It is a full touching experience everywhere, thankfully over the clothes… well so I thought. The problem is that I kept beeping and the embarrassing part of it all was that the hand detector machine was doing so in my crotch area. And it was not only once or twice, she must have raised that thing between my legs a good 6 times before deciding that something definitely had to be wrong. After all, I do look very unlawful in my team Canada jogging suit and running shoes. So I ended up having to follow 2 female security agents to a remote location. When I left my coach Danielle Goyette was looking at me in a suspicious matter and it almost made me nervous. What can it be? Did some American player hide drugs in my underwear to put me away forever in a German prison??? Cannot be, I am not that good!
So here I am… doping control all over again but this time not African or Canadian, but German style. Something about some of the German people’s demeanor is not very welcoming or comforting. I don’t want to generalize to the whole Nation but we had some interesting experience at that airport in the past years! So perhaps it’s only the airport workers that are not overly friendly! Here I am in the 7×7 room having to drop my pants and underwear to the ground for the 2 ladies inspection. And once again I did get the metal detector up and around too many times. A little invading to say the least! As a police trained student, I was starting to fear the worst… a naked search. The type made specifically for when drugs are believed to have been hidden you know where I mean. Yes exactly there! After exchanging in German, they decided to let me go. I was quite relieved about that! And my teammates could not believe what had just happened to me.
When we landed to Helsinki, we gathered our luggage whom all made it except Irwin and Scanzano’s hockey equipment. I was quite relieved to see my hockey bag arrive! And to meet my new sticks after the 90minutes bus ride to Vierumaki. We were feeling quite tired and puffy in the legs but since it was only 5ish we were scheduled an off-ice workout. We had no idea what we were setting ourselves up for! After a great long dynamic warm-up, we did some agility work and finished with some 150 yards shuttles running sprints (3x50yards). We did this 5 times! Although it might not seem that difficult when you probably read it, it is extremely demanding simply because of the fact that you are doing it with world class athletes that can run quite amazingly. You should see Meghan Mikkelson. She is one of the fittest athlete I’ve ever seen. And she can not only run, she can bike just as well and she’s incredibly strong in the weight room. We are all pretty tired after the sprints and sore, part of that being because we were tired from travelling and dehydrated as well. But that was a great moment for the shaping of this team’s chemistry! Girls were encouraging one another and pushing to make everyone better and faster.
Wednesday morning we had a morning activation with Danielle Goyette, our assistant coach and ex National team player. Danielle was one of the best players our game has ever seen! She is just as good as a coach. Super patient, extremely knowledgeable with the small details that make a huge difference. It’s amazing to see players staying in the game as coaches. Regardless of the gender I want the most qualify person but when possible I love to see women coach women especially when they played the game at a high level. It is obvious that our young players on Defense feel very comfortable with Danielle and I think it will be very beneficial for their development. I learn from her every day!
Our morning activation is basically an active warm-up where we do mobility work and muscle activation and some agility drills to get our heart rate pumping. It is as easy or as hard as you make it to be in a lot of ways. I tend to be the type to live by ‘’do it all out or don’t do it at all.’’ I cannot say that I am always extremely motivated but once we get going I am usually back at 100%. I think it’s hard for anyone to always stay sharp and focused. That’s also why a team sport is so great, we can lift one another’s spirit up when needed! It is rewarding to do so and it feels so good to be on the receiving end.
We faced Switzerland at 2pm. I expected them to give us a good battle because they did perform well at the 2011 World Championship they hosted last year. We have a very young team so I did not know what to expect as far as how we would start the tournament. We had an incredible start to the game and our young players displayed great confidence with the puck and a good willingness to win battles. Unfortunately, the coach decided to start their 2nd goalie who does not have as much experience as Florence Schelling, their goalie who did so well at the tournament earlier this year. The young goalie did well but after over 60 shots she seemed to be getting tired(understandably). We won the game 16-0. It was Christina Kessler’s first win with the senior National Team and her first shootout! She even added an assist! Mallory Deluce and Jessie Scanzano also scored their first goal. Jayna Hefford had a hat trick while Haley Irwin and Tessa Bonhomme both scored twice. Always great to see a defense player like Tessa scored twice. Those games are harder for them because we do not spend a lot of time in our defensive zone but our defense was involved in our attack and contributed greatly to our offensive success. The funniest moment of the game happened when rookie Mallory Deluce came to change but went to the wrong door located on the Swiss bench. She stayed there trying to open the gate and the Swiss staff looked at her with astonishment. Malory looked up and realized she was not at the right place (rookie mistake #2).
After the game, we went bowling as a team. We had a lot of fun! We had to take shots sitting down, granny style between our legs facing forward and backwards and even throw with the wrong hand! I posted some of the pictures! I think I’ll stick to hockey and most of my teammates should as well. The only honorable mention goes to goalie Gen Lacasse who could get some surprising curve effect on the ball each time for some impressive results!
We had a fast turnover with our next game playing Russia today at 3pm. Once again our day started with the active warm-up this morning. My roommate Liz Knox was starting in net for her first game with the National team. Not only did she get her first win, she also added an assist on Jayna Hefford’s goal. Meghan Agosta had a hat trick today. Vicki Bendus was the player of the game. She was incredible scoring herself but also setting up beautiful goals. Vicki, a Patty Kazmaier winner as the best player in NCAA while playing at Mercyhurst, is very small but she plays so tough and can protect the puck very well because she is so shifty. But amazes me the most is how smart she is on the ice. Her hockey vision is fantastic. She is also a very committed athlete. A pleasure to play with and have as a teammate. All her life she had to prove that she could perform at a high level even though people thought she was too small. It is not different with the National team and she knows it. But I think she will continue to excel so she does not give them the choice but to select her! We won the game 14-1. Scored lots of PP goals which is good for our team. Also today our energizer bunny Emmanuelle Blais scored her first goal! Manu and I play together with the Montreal Stars. I have known her since she is 14 years old. It’s been incredible to watch her grow as a person and athlete and even get the chance to coach her for 2 years at Minnesota Duluth. She was a big reason why we won the NCAA National title in 2008! Manu is fearless. She is incredibly fast and plays with awesome energy. That’s why I call her the Energizer Bunny… feels like she never gets tired! Our doctor and physio had a bet going as far as who on the team had the biggest quads. They decided that the only way to know what to measure the big quads candidates. They thought it would be between Scanzano, Apps, Hefford and I. So the results were: Winner is Appsy with 53cm, myself with 52cm, Hefford with 50cm and Scanzano 48cm. But I said: ‘’wait a second, measure this little one there’’ pointing at Manu! And close enough, she was at 51, good for 3rd place! Considering how young she is and that she is has fewer years of training behind her… that is quite incredible! I knew she had massive muscular quads! That’s what makes her the explosive skater she is!
During the game we had a few milestone that were achieved as well. First it was Meghan Mikkelson 50th game with the National team. Meghan Agosta reached the 100th point mark. I can guarantee you that many more are yet to come. Finally, amazing Jayna Hefford reached the 250th career point mark. Only Hayley Wickenheiser has more points than her in the history of the National team. If you want to have an idea of how truly incredible 250 points is, I am hoping and praying I can make it to 200 games played with the National team! I am unsure anyone will ever get close to Wick or Heff in the scoring category. I could be wrong though. I have been in the past. We have practice tomorrow before we face Slovakia Saturday. Slovakia has a very young team. We played them at the Olympics in Vancouver and their age average was around 18 years old while ours was around 28! But they have a lot of raw talent and a great goaltender. I hope that the country’s federation will invest in that talent. We could see them cause some surprises in 2014 or 2018 if they do develop that talent to its peak.
Thank you for reading!