Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hockey n Heels 11/12/14

The Caps Hockey n Heels events are becoming an annual tradition. Tonight was my fourth event (read about the other events here and here and here). The Caps really put a lot of effort into the event and it showed. Everything was well-organized and fun. We were at Kettler for almost 4 hours!

I attended this year's event with friends and fellow die-hard fans Kristin and Catherine.

We started our evening by learning about the goalie glove and blocker from goalie Justin Peters. We got a chance to stand in goal, while former Caps defenseman Sylvain Côté shot foam pucks at us. He took it easy on us, and we were able to block most of the pucks he sent our way. Standing in front of the goal while someone is shooting pucks at you gives you a whole new appreciation for what goalies face every game. And this was without any traffic in front!

Next, we headed to the Caps training room for a conditioning/nutrition session with trainer Mark Nemish, Caps forward Michael Latta, former Caps player Alan May, and the Caps private chef. We were given a light work-out with the floor ladders and then listened to a talk about nutrition. The players are served breakfast and lunch at the practice facility, in addition to game-day and after-game meals.

Then it was time for our picture with player Tom Wilson. We had the option to wear some sample Winter Classic jerseys, which was exciting.

The last on-ice station was shooting the puck with Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt.This is the fourth time I've done a shooting station like this, but this time I tried something new. Schmidt mentioned that he is right-handed but he shoots left (that means his left hand is lower on the stick) and said he thought it was easier. I am right-handed and have always tried shooting right, but this time I switched it up. And I found that shooting left was actually more natural for me. So that was interesting.

Then we headed upstairs for some dinner before the Q&A with Barry Trotz.

I definitely enjoyed this session the most. Coach Trotz was so interesting and willing to answer our questions. I am always so impressed with the quality of questions that the other fans ask - it's clear that most attendees are students of the game. Coach Trotz fielded questions about his impressions of the team/city/fans, his philosophy about benching players, his impression of the team's play thus far, and more that I can't remember.

I asked him how he uses advanced statistics (analytics, aka Corsi and Fenwick) and what he thinks about them. He gave a very thoughtful, detailed answer which I didn't record, so I won't be able to do it justice here. But he did touch on how they use them in video review to flag issues with particular players. He talked about how sometimes the numbers (which are ways of showing puck possession) aren't useful because of coaching tactics - for example, in game situations when they want the players to dump and change. He also mentioned that he is aware of the team's current numbers (which are much improved from previous years) and that they aren't reflected in their current record. He talked about how the goalies aren't used to the lesser number of shots on goal and also how the players aren't accustomed to playing with the puck as much and are making mistakes. It was very interesting. It's clear that he is really smart about the game.

Next, we head to the locker room at Kettler,where the equipment manager talked about all of the gear that he is ordering for the Winter Classic. He is clearly excited about all the neat things they are getting, not just the uniforms, helmets, gloves, hats, etc, but also small things like the staff tracksuits, towels, whistles, tape, all kinds of stuff. And of course, we got to poke around a little bit and check out all the players' gear.

Our last stop was a rules/strategy discussion with assistant coach Lane Lambert. He had a white board and drew up a lot of scenarios involving hybrid icing, off-sides, face-offs, set plays, line changes, proposed rule revisions, etc. Really interesting and great questions from the audience too.

It was another fun evening, and as usual, I have to thank the Caps and their staff for being so willing to put on these events. The players and coaches were so gracious and seemed excited to be there and see our enthusiasm for hockey.

You can see all of my photos from the evening here. All photos are copyrighted by me and may not be republished without permission. Thanks for reading!