It was a rough day to be a Devils rookie, or someone who wants to be a rookie on the big squad. The Devils booked the ice at South Mountain today from 8:30 AM until deep into the afternoon, and then they took another sheet for the dinner hour. When I popped in around lunchtime, most of the regulars had already departed, and it was a crop of somewhat familiar faces doing breakout and two-on-two drills: Rod Pelley, Dave Clarkson, Mike Mottau, Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre (of double-hyphen semi-fame, sporting #37), Petr Vrana and Mike Pandolfo. Could have sworn I saw Kurt Kleinendorst with a whistle along the boards. It was the “best of Lowell and Trenton” show, with a mix of some guys who have bounced between the ECHL, AHL and NHL.
These guys worked hard today. It’s rare to see professional athletes, at any level, look tired. By 6:00 PM, the four blueliners left skating on the big rink at South Mountain were dead tired. And probably equal parts dead and tired. While they were skating, showering, skating some more, having a healthy lunch and skating still more, I managed to get in most of a day of work, run a dozen errands, and wrap up loose ends for the youth hockey home opener tomorrow night. Anyone who gets a spot on Sutter’s team has most definitely earned it.
While the Newark practice facility remains under construction, the Devils have camp running at South Mountain, open to the public and with the usual assortment of well-wishers, autograph seekers and random skaters. It’s a great feeling to have the horn and tails grace our ice sheets, one more season. As camp opened yesterday, the team signed just about every promotional item the club will need to stock for the coming year: pictures, programs, pucks, souvenir sticks, and perhaps someone’s younger sibling. Check out the photo shoot of the great inking (not just a reference to Colin White’s guns). I am still laughing at the players dressed in jerseys and shorts, or sport coats, ties and shorts. Reminds me of 8th grade graduation pictures, when we were assured that the world would only see us from the waist up in the final product.
After some of that fashion show, maybe the 10-hour skate wasn’t so bad.