Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So You Wanna Be a Hockey Player - Part 3

Fresh off his latest skate with the Vancouver Canucks, Oren Eizenman - "The Phantom from Fresno", as Sportsnet labeled him this week - files part three of his ongoing blog for Heebonics.

Colour My World

Monday was a big day. We were to play Calgary’s rookies in the first game of a mini-tournament in Camrose, Alberta. No matter how much I tried to play it down in my head, I knew that the game I played that night would largely determine what Vancouver’s management decided to do with me when camp ends on Wednesday. I thought that I would wake up and be a bit nervous or excited, but I was surprisingly calm all morning, and I went about my business as usual.

Morning skate was short because the coaches wanted to get to our plane early so we could eat before flying to Edmonton. This was fine by me; I like to be on the ice just long enough to get loose and then get right off. On my way back from the ice to the dressing room, I was stopped by the team media coordinator who told me that I was to do an interview with a lady standing beside him.

The interview was for CBC , which was a thrill for me. She had the famous CBC microphone which I had seen countless times on Hockey Night in Canada in front of the faces of my favourite players. Being on the other end of that mic was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced.

All this was going on in my head while I was giving the interview so I’m not sure what I said, but it seemed to make an impression because as I was leaving she said, “I hope you make the Canucks, because you would definitely be on the interview all-star team.” I went to the dressing room feeling pretty good about myself….and desperately trying to remember what I said.

That interview remained my coolest experience of training camp for about an hour, at which time it was immediately trumped by Vancouver’s team plane. When I was told we were flying to Edmonton, I expected that we’d go to the airport, wait at a gate, sit in cramped seats, get delayed and finally land without our bags. So when our bus drove by the airport and straight onto the tarmac, I was more than a little surprised. We stopped in front of a large plane and boarded it immediately. On the way back to my seat, I passed the buffet that I thought was our lunch (I found out later that it was the appetizer).

I got to my seat which was about twice the size of a normal airline seat and reclined fully, so that it resembled a single bed. As soon as I sat down the flight attendant came by to take my lunch order. The next two hours were among the most comfortable of my life, which is surprising because they took place on an airplane. It would appear that travel in the NHL is a bit easier than what I’m used to.

We landed and walked about 10 feet to our waiting bus. We didn’t handle any of our bags, either, and just walked empty-handed from one vehicle to the other. I thought to myself that this is an insane way to travel, but I wasn’t complaining. About this time, I started thinking less about our mode of transportation and more about what I was getting ready to do. We went straight to the arena, getting there a couple of hours before game-time. Just enough time to warm-up, stretch and prepare.

The first period did not go well. My team got scored on less than a minute in, and it seemed like Calgary had a lot more energy than us. Personally, I did not play well. I felt tight, mentally and physically, not the way I wanted to get started. My line got scored against halfway through the period and we went into the first intermission down 2-0.

After the first I remember saying to myself, “Well, you’ve played about as poorly as you could, so there’s nowhere to go but up.” In a funny way, playing so poorly relaxed me. My mental relaxation must have worked because I got it going in the second. I was moving better, getting to pucks, really controlling a lot of the game. About midway through the period, we were on the power-play and I made a pass from behind the net to my winger. He swung a pass to a defenseman on the blue-line who stepped into a slap shot. I got out from behind the net just in time to get a stick on it and tip it past Calgary’s goalie. My first goal in an NHL jersey; that’s something. That cut Calgary’s lead to 3-2, and we kept coming. I played well for the rest of the period and had a couple of good chances, but nothing went in.

The third was much the same as the second: My team kept pressing, I kept playing well, but we just didn’t seem to get the bounces. I was doing the little things well; I won 85% of my faceoffs, forced turnovers and even made the hardest hit of my life. Though we outshot Calgary significantly, we lost 6-3, which was a disappointing result to say the least.

I wasn’t in the best mood after the game, but my spirits were lifted when I turned on my phone and saw that I had a lot of message from family and friends wishing me well and congratulating me on my goal. It’s really nice to know that so many people are so supportive of what I’m doing. Later that night I got a very interesting message from a friend of mine who informed me that I was mentioned on Sportsnet Connected (a big nightly sports show). I thought that was really cool and was about to text him back when I got a message from another friend of mine who lives in Calgary. He said that he had been listening to the local sports radio station and that they had mentioned that I was among the best Canuck players that night. Apparently they called me the “Phenom from Fresno.”

To top it all off, I ate dinner after the game with one of my best friends from my days at RPI, Tommy Green. He and his new wife live about an hour from Camrose, and made the trip out to see the game. It was really nice to be able to spend some time with them. Monday was a great day.

Thanks to all the people who have written me e-mails, texts or commented on the Heebonics blog. Your support means a lot to me.

- Oren

Keep questions coming for Oren by writing to him at

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