Monday, September 15, 2008

So you wanna be a professional hockey player?

Many Canadian girls and boys dream of one day playing in the NHL. It's a dream that's very hard to fulfill, to say the least.

So, when a talented Toronto-area Jewish boy gets called up by one of Canada's professional squads to show his stuff and possibly compete for a coveted spot on the Vancouver Canucks team, we think many people will be interested.

Oren Eizenman, 23, is now one step closer to achieving the dream. Having arrived in Vancouver last Friday, Oren will be relating his week-long, training camp experiences to Heebonics and CJN readers with an almost-daily blog. (Click on his name for a glimpse of Oren's hockey career and stats.)

As he told Heebonics prior to his departure, his is a story rare to the professional ranks in the NHL. Jews make up less than one per cent of players in the big league. If he makes it, he'll do so with that awareness.

Without further ado, here's Oren on his first day at camp last week.
He'll tell you all about it.

And So It Is
By: Oren Eizenman

I don't think I could have had a better flight into Vancouver. By appearing shifty and a bit menacing, I skillfully avoided a conversation with my seat neighbour, then watched a Jays game, which they won. They're still mathematically eligible, and it ain't over 'til... well, you know when.

A long flight lends itself to introspection, and it seems natural when you are on your way somewhere to think back to where you're from. My name is Oren and I'm from Toronto. I'm headed to the Vancouver Canucks' Training Camp by way of RPI (a small university in upstate New York known for hockey and engineering) for college; Belgrade for a World Championship gold medal with the Israeli National Team, and Fresno, California, where I spent most of my first professional season last year. I'm a hockey player.

At the airport I was met by team personnel and my bags were immediately whisked off in different directions: hockey equipment to GM Place and personal bags to the hotel. On the ride over, I was given a lot of information that I'm not sure I digested because I was busy staring out the window at a city I have never visited. The scenery around Vancouver with the water meeting the mountains is like nothing I have ever seen before. Nothing was planned for the evening so I just walked around the city a little bit and got a decent feel for downtown Vancouver, which I like very much.

In the morning I woke up early and caught the bus to the official start of Camp. There are 20 of us here, young players looking to make an impression on the big club. We have three days of training in Vancouver, after which we'll head to Camrose, Alberta for a mini tournament against the Flames' and Oilers' prospects. Not a lot of time to make an impression, so every moment counts.

The first thing I had to do when I got to the rink was physical testing. It took about an hour and a half and consisted of two (extremely hard) biking tests, a vertical jump test, a bench press test, a grip test and body fat test. Not too bad, but pretty tiring. They don't let you know how you're doing compared to other people but I think I did alright. I wasn't happy with my bike tests, but did well on the bench press and body fat portions. I've been training for the start of this season since about 12 hours after the end of my last playoff game, so I expected a bit more from myself. Still, I don't think I disappointed in the weight room.

Next was the dramatic portion of the competition: I went to the media room where the Canucks staff took my headshot and did some camera work that they said would be used on the big board whenever needed. I hope it will be needed often. I mostly gave them Le Tigre, but once in a while a mixed in Blue Steel to keep things fresh.

After going through every medical test imaginable (and a couple of psychological tests for good measure) and getting fitted for my equipment, I was ready for lunch and a camp orientation meeting. Both were nourishing - the meeting because it really brought home the fact that I'm working out for an NHL team, which is food for my soul. The meal was just, well, nourishing.

It was finally time to get on the ice for the first time. The skate was meant for us to get used to our equipment and get our feet under us but was actually much more than that. This was made immediately clear by the row of scouts and Canucks brass sitting in the stands with clipboards. It was only a half hour skate, but quite intense. Coupled with this morning's tests, it tired me (and everyone else) out.

Now it's time to go back to the hotel and refuel for the tough days ahead.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish my Mom a very happy birthday. Sorry I can't be there to help you celebrate.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to go to an NHL camp, check back in soon for more of my musings.

Shabbat Shalom,

Have questions for Oren? He's happy to answer. Send them to We'll post questions and answers on the blog as they come in!


Ltag said...

great piece and I'm looking forward to more. Usually one would associate a hockey player as brute and rough around the edges, but oren sounds like a mensch with a soft spot - nice that he mentions his mother

Hipster Jewfus said...

Not only is it rare to see Jews in the NHL, but it's just as rare to hear from an articulate and well-spoken NHLer... It was a nice surprise to see that the phrases "I gave a 110 per cent" or "I'm taking it one step at a time" were absent from this post ;)
Looking forward to reading more...