Our third week here in Russia was definitely tiring, but a lot of fun. The Russian National Team players on our team (which is about 10 girls) were away for the week for one of their camps leading up to the Olympic games in February. They will do this a few more times before the games and when they leave, there are about 8 of us left here in Dmitrov. We still practice, and work hard on and off the ice while they are gone. Less girls on the ice = more repetitions of drills = tired human beings. We had two on ice practices one day, and the other days had scrimmages and practices, as well as weight room sessions. One day we had a scrimmage against each other, our coaches, and a few guys that came out to play with us. We played two halves and after the first half, my team was losing, so instead of doing push ups or something, our coach made us bear crawl on our hands and knees from the goal line to the red line. It was pretty hysterical. This reminded me of something that happened during one of our first practices here that I totally forgot to write down. When someone makes a bad mistake during practice.. there’s no getting on the line and skating like in college, or doing push ups after the drill is over. No no.. the coach stops practice, and in front of everyone, make you do somersaults on the ice (like forward rolls that you learned in 3rd grade gym class.. you all know what I’m talking about). Now.. I haven’t had to do any of these yet, knock on wood, but it is so awesome. When I end up coaching, this is definitely something I am implementing on my team. Because who wants to do forward rolls on the ice while the whole team watches because they didn’t dump the puck in? Not me. Any who, after all the hard work during the week, by Friday afternoon after practice and lift, my body was telling me to lay in bed all day on Friday and watch Glee. And you have to listen to your body right? Right. So that’s exactly what I did.
But back to the week.. it was a ton of fun to work hard and get to know some of the girls a little better. Probably one of the best days was when we scrimmaged against our team owners, directors, and sponsors.
We left Dmitrov at about 6am and drove in 3 hours of heavy traffic to Moscow (a drive that should normally take about an hour). We got to the rink and had to hurry onto the ice to start the scrimmage. We played against about 11 men roughly aged, 25 to 45? Most of them were incredibly talented and we definitely had our work cut out for us. We were told (after the game) that a couple of them had played in the KHL and professionally, which definitely explained why some of them could skate backwards circles around us. Their passing was the most impressive. You would look one way to anticipate a pass, and while you were looking, the puck would whiz by you the other way. But it was a lot of fun to be able to joke around and try your best to hit 6 foot 3 brick walls while they brush you off like you’re a mosquito. One of the men was the owner of our team, one was our director, and multiple others were sponsors of our program and women’s hockey. It was really cool to get to meet some of the people that make it possible for us to play the game we love. They were all very nice and were quick to compliment us and thank us for letting them skate circles around us. Afterward we got to talk with a few of them, including our team owner who, after finding out a few of us were going to spend the day in Moscow, was nice enough to arrange an authentic Russian meal at a great restaurant for us later that evening.
After a quick coffee to make me forget that I had woken up at 5 in the morning, me, Cherie, and our roommate Zuza spent the day in Moscow. It was a little bit colder than we would have liked, maybe 35 degrees, but we visited a World War 2 museum which was really awesome. They had a ton of artifacts from the war, as well as huge dioramas that depicted scenes from the war, statues and monuments, and a ton of old clothes and uniforms that the Russian men wore in battle. It was pretty cool and it didn’t hurt that it was indoors.
Afterward, we visited the most prestigious university in Moscow, who’s main building was one of 7 identical structures that Stalin built just after the war. It was pretty incredible. We didn’t get to go inside, but we got an up close view. Shortly after we went to a spot just next to the university that looked out over the entire city of Moscow which was an awesome view.
We had a little time to kill before dinner so we visited Arbut street which is the most famous street in Moscow and a lot of people compare it to a European street as far as it’s design. There are no cars allowed on the street so it was nice to walk on the cobble stones and check out some of the small shops along the way.
The best part of the day was the dinner that our owner organized for us. There were probably about 10 of us at the restaurant, which looked like an old castle from the outside. The inside was just as incredible, with wooden pillars, staircases, ceiling, and a massive wooden boat in the middle of the entry way that was lit up with various string lights. The tables and chairs reminded me of something from medieval times and the food was incredible. Now.. if the food in Russia is the only reason why you’re not visiting.. you’re crazy. I left feeling like I had just eaten two Thanksgiving meals and fell asleep in the car about 5 minutes after I sat down. (For those of you that know me well.. yes I know this is normal. I have a problem.. don’t judge me). It was an amazing dinner. As we were leaving, we also noticed a bunch of photographs in the entry way of the restaurant that depicted all the famous people that had eaten at the restaurant. Of course, Alexander Ovechkin was up there (if you don’t know who he is.. you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.) and then.. Hello Condoleezza Rice! There she was smiling at us from the picture frame. All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better day in Moscow! I met a lot of great people, spent time with great friends, and ate great food. Doesn’t get much better than that.
To those of you that celebrate the most delicious and un-nutritious holiday on the planet, Happy Thanksgiving. Those of us who are in countries that don’t have boxed stuffing are extremely jealous.
Since the last blog, our team traveled about 8 hours via bus to play a very talented team in our league called SKIF. The SKIF program contains two teams; SKIF 1, a much more talented and experienced group of players, and SKIF 2, a younger developing squad. Our first two games of the weekend were against SKIF 1 whose roster contains ta couple talented Finnish national team players and multiple Russian national team players with great skill.
The first game got off to a slow start and we found ourselves trailing SKIF 2-0 going into the third period. Fortunately we were able to get a late third period goal, but it wasn’t enough and we lost our first game of the season. We were later told it was also the first time in over 70 games that our program had lost. Disappointing wasn’t even close to the right word to describe it. After a lot of reflection and discussions, we were ready for the second game the next day. Again we came out flat and didn’t make the most of our scoring chances. We lost 3-2. Not experiencing a loss in over 70 games obviously made our program accustomed to winning. However, to win that many games in a row is almost unheard of in the game of women’s hockey (you’re almost there University of Minnesota) and especially when you are playing in a professional league that is composed of a large amount of players that represent their respective countries. That said, our team wasn’t happy or satisfied with the efforts we gave on the weekend and we know that in order to have the outcome we want at the end of the season, we cannot lose anymore games. Sometimes it takes a kick in the face to bring back the fire and the passion and the will to win. Watch out world.
Though our travel to SKIF wasn’t as eventful as the 8 our airport delay that we experienced on the last road trip. It was highlighted by two major accidents, one on the way there, and one on the way back, that delayed us significantly and allowed for some serious team bonding on the bus. Nothing like packing 20 girls on a small bus for 8 or 9 hours to build camaraderie.
Speaking of camaraderie, our apartment was home to the team Halloween party (which turned out to be only about 8 of us because most of the team left on our two off days). However, 8 people or not, Halloween in Dmitrov was one for the ages. We had two “cats,” one gypsy, one pirate, one robot, a swimmer, and two escaped zombie prisoners. There was great food, awesome music, and a couple sodas here and there. The party started around 6 and ended with a noise complaint around 1am. Needless to say, we had an awesome time. Highlights of the night included watching the two zombie prisoners try to eat carrots through the tiny holes in their masks, throwing carrots off the balcony at unsuspecting passers-by, throwing a large kids bouncy ball at everyone in the room while they were trying to carry on conversations, and singing at the top of our lungs to Luke Bryan, Rihanna, and various Russian artists. Pictures are worth a couple thousand words in this case.
In two weeks we are heading to Germany to play in the first round of Euro Cup, the final of which takes place in March!
It will be great to see a little more of Europe and play against some friends from college!