Billy Bridges

GOLD MEDAL DAY – THERE’S NOTHING LIKE IT

“It’s a glorious day for Gold!” is what my first basketball/sledge hockey coach would always proclaim the morning of a final game. As a semi-ritualistic kind of player, I have come to exclaim this tradition every morning of my final games to my roommate. I love gold medal game days – there is nothing that really compares. The buzz around the rink is electric, and most guys can’t shake off the little grin kept in the corner of their mouths.

Today we get a chance to do something we rarely have the opportunity to do – play for gold in our country … in our barn. The opponent couldn’t be better. USA’s young squad has really stepped up and created its own identity. We need to be prepared to match the United States’ intensity right away … and then better it. We definitely have the ability to do so, as long as the guys are on the same page. If last night’s game (a 9-0 win over Germany) is indicative to the level that we’re at right now, then tonight should be very exciting.

I may be sticking my neck out here, but to date I have been in about 17 national/international gold medal games and I have zero silver medals in my collection. Will today be the day I’m “awarded” my first one?

Not if I can help it.

Bridges 18

THURSDAY, FEB. 26 » STAYING LEVEL-HEADED

As 4 a.m. rolled around last night, I finally realized that my adrenaline was still jacked from the battle of a game last night. Battles like that can really bring a team together and it’s definitely been the topic of every discussion today.

Having said that, now is the time that we really need to work on our mental preparation and refocus on the task at hand. We’re not going to beat Japan tonight, and ultimately win this championship, by reliving the high energy victory last night. After beating Japan 3-1 in a hard fought game last month, we definitely can’t take this match lightly.

Our captain, Jean Labonté, with help from our rookie Matt Cook, implemented a fine box today after practice. It’s a means in which any player can submit a fine request for any team rule infractions they witness. Infractions include chatting on cell phones, wearing the wrong clothing or passing gas at inopportune times (as some veterans enjoy doing … you know who you are)

We’re looking forward to another great game against a prepared and driven Japanese squad. Thanks for following us thus far, and keep checking in to see our results.
We would love to encourage anyone to send in questions for Graeme and I to answer for you.

Bridges 18

WE’RE HERE … AND WE’RE READY TO BATTLE FOR GOLD
MONDAY FEB. 23

Any sledge hockey player from any national team in the world looks forward to two things – the Paralympics and playing any tournament in Canada. No other place in the world can rival the support and love for our game. Taking our first look at UBC Thunderbird Arena proves this statement 100 per cent! The rink, which is the same facility that we will be using at the Paralympics next year, is a testament to our nation’s devoted interest to the sport. The boards in the corners have been removed and replaced with glass for cameras to get an incredible view of all the action that takes place that people at home viewing wouldn’t necessarily be able to see. There is so much stick work and body positioning that takes place in the corners that really defines just how hard this sport is to play. Finally, people can get a sense of just how hard it is to “D” up Brad Bowden one-on-one out of the corner – it’s almost impossible. On top of that there are dozens of innovations that this facility is trying out for the first time.

Getting a chance to see this ‘close-to-final’ project has really created a buzz around the dressing room. All of a sudden, instead of talking about the 2010 Paralympics, guys are discussing what we are going to do “next year”. It really is incredible that the Games are only one year away. I remember one year before Torino, we were a wreck. Coming off a fourth-place finish at worlds the year before, we felt so lost, and I’m sure Jeff Snyder (our head coach) was losing sleep over thinking how to get us out of that rut. Now one year away, the guys have never looked better. With new players like Matt Cook to push us, the team is competing like I have never witnessed.

We are now two practices in, and play our first game Tuesday night. Some of the guys had their luggage, which included their hockey gear, lost and have only been on the ice once. But I don’t hear any of those guys complaining as our practice yesterday ended up being a bag skate, to try to shake off the rust and convince us to focus. We had an amazing skate today, and besides Rosey’s five-inch, solid black bruise on his forearm (don’t know where he got that) we are totally healthy.

Bridges – 18

 

For more information:
Adam Crockatt Manager, National Men's Teams | Responsable, équipe nationale masculine (hockey sur luge)