“YESTERDAY IS BEHIND US. TODAY IS ALL THAT MATTERS” – JEFF SNYDER
It is day three of the World Sledge Hockey Challenge and we have two big games under our belts. Previously I have talked about preparation, teamwork and competition. Today I want you to be part of game day with me, start to finish. There is a term that goes around our team during tournaments like these, days when we wake up in the morning feeling good and ready for action. ‘It’s a good day for hockey’ our coach says as the team piles on to the bus after breakfast. The ride to the rink is 10 or 15 minutes long consisting of both roaring laughter and private conversations ... whatever guys need to get ready to practice.
The morning skate is a personal favourite of mine. All I want to do during the three or four drills is get loose and get a feel for the puck. In skating drills I’ll skate hard, make sure my stride is on. In puck handling drills I’ll focus on moving the puck. In shooting drills I’ll practice my point shot or try to snipe some corners to get a good feeling. After the skate we are off to an afternoon meal; most guys get that over with quickly because an afternoon nap is a must. Some nap, some watch a movie (300 seems to be the movie of choice this week). I like to lie in bed and play around with the playlists on my iPod. Music is a huge key to my performance on the ice.
I don’t like to nap too long before game. I want to have as much energy going to the rink as possible. In the change room it’s all energy. The stereo blasts whatever the guys request. Before I get dressed I like to stick handle with a tennis ball. Once everyone is dressed – sweaters on, crests draped over our chests and helmets on – the volleyball comes. About 10 minutes before coach comes in someone throws it across the room, it hits someone in the head. From there the ball is thrown harder and faster. This accomplishes two things, it gets everyone lose and it makes it fun. It’s game time!
THE WORLD SLEDGE HOCKEY CHALLENGE IS OFF TO A GREAT START!
Everyone knows teamwork wins games. We proved that last night with a 4-0 victory over the Americans. Every single Canadian player played their role, and did it well. We played a physical game, a tight game and at the end we were prouder of how our team came together than the actual score of the game. I think we are on track for a fantastic tournament here in P.E.I.
This afternoon I thought I’d take a walk around P.E.I. to enjoy the island. Half an hour later I had covered three-quarters of the island and was back in my hotel room thinking that I have to send a shout out to volunteers here. In much the same way it takes teamwork for us to win games, it takes teamwork to host a great tournament. It starts with the bus drivers, people selling tickets, ushers and security people to the kids that pick up our towels. All of these people have to work together to turn a week of hockey into a World Sledge Hockey Challenge.
I’ve played in good venues and I’ve played in bad; arenas that are freezing cold, arenas that have no power and even arenas that have only three walls (there is nothing stranger then being blinded by the light when you’re bearing down on net). Because of these things I’m grateful that Charlottetown is able to host another amazing tournament. This is only the start and we are off to an even better start then last year, thanks to the fans. More than 800 fans in the stands last night made it sound like 8,000. Let’s keep it up. Keep showing us a great tournament and we will show you some amazing hockey.
ON THE HIGHWAY TO GOLD!
The Vancouver 2010 Games are always on my mind. What does it take to get there? The journey to be a Paralympic champion is like driving east to west along the Trans-Canada Highway. There are twists and turns, bumps and pot holes, easy sections and tough ones. My trip started almost four years ago, when I returned home from Torino, Italy. No country has ever won back to back Paralympic championships in sledge hockey – it is my goal to help bring my country that gold, and I'll do whatever it takes to succeed. Whatever it takes involves skating more than I ever have in my life, lifting weights until I can’t do it anymore and pedaling my bike ... rain or shine. I’m training with relentless pursuit, pursuit of one goal. The thing that keeps me working every day is that I know my teammates are doing the same; I don’t train alone, even if I am alone. I train harder because my opponents train hard.
My team and I are a band of warriors. We are warriors defending honour, territory and pride. I believe there is no greater privilege then representing your country; I get to do it with Canada’s game and winning is the only option. In Vancouver, the last chapter of this journey, I know I will have no regrets and the pain, sweat and scars will be worth it.
Like the multicultural history of Canada itself my team will compete with heart of the Scottish
Highlander, the discipline of the Samurai, the ingenuity of the Spartans and the psychology of the New
Zealand Maori. These are the things that make good players great.
|IT STARTS TOMORROW AND CANADA IS READY TO GO
The World Sledge Hockey Challenge in Charlottetown, P.E.I. game opener is on Tuesday. I’m pumped to play our first game of the tournament against the United States. The rivalry between Canada and the U.S. has always been huge and this game is going to set the stage for the rest of the season. Up to this point, Canada and the U.S. have split victories over four games and both teams are looking for the right mix to field a championship team. I’m going to use the game tomorrow to set a pace for the rest of the season. I always have Vancouver 2010 on my mind and I want to make sure I’m as ready as I can be.
I’m feeling great right now. The team had a nice welcome-to-Charlottetown dinner on Saturday, an amazing skate on Sunday and a second fantastic skate on Monday. For Tuesday’s game, I want us to come out of the gate hard. Like all of my teammates, I’m going to hit hard, skate hard, and shoot hard. In the first three minutes of the game, the Americans will know we showed up to play. In the last three minutes of the game, they will be scared to play us again.
I have trained hard to get myself here, a lot of reps on the bench press, countless hours on the bike and I’ve lost count of the number of blue lines I’ve crossed over doing laps on the ice. This week, I will get to showcase what I’ve worked for and it’s only the start. Tuesday’s game is just one game on the highway to a gold medal. Our captain, Jean Labonté, says it best: “One day at a time, one game at a time, one shift at a time, one play at a time.”
Let’s make like ‘Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots and knock some heads!
Canada’s National Sledge Team