Saturday, March 15, 2008

A day trip to Kettler

It's been a while since we've been to Kettler Capitals Iceplex, so we thought we'd take in a practice this morning. It was different than those early training camp days...

As we took up a spot behind the glass at the balcony end of the ice, the first thing we noticed was the glass. Filled with streak and swirls and smudges from a season's worth of practice pucks, it was a little like looking out from the other side of a Jackson Pollack painting.

There was the thump-thump-thumping of shoes on metal as kids scampered up the steps or scurried through the stands.

13 water bottles standing sentinel on the top of the boards at the players' bench, waiting for the players to take the ice.

The advertisements around the boards, bright and freshly applied last September, now chipped and smudged from pucks and players spending six months breaking in the rink.

Youngsters asking their parents anxiously, "when are they coming out?"

Tom Poti and Milan Jurcina coming out first and engaging in a friendly contest in what seemed an effort to ring pucks off the crossbar from the blue line (Poti connected on his first chance).

The players coming out in twos and threes, skating around in long lazy circles as if they were trying to shake off the cobwebs of a game last night.

A nice crowd filling the stands and ringing the outside of the rink as the players started their drills.

A clot of fans over near the players' bench, hoping for a glimpse, a word, an autograph.

Sami Lepisto amusing himself over at the faceoff circle, resting on one knee while flipping pucks into the air and trying to catch them on the blade of his stick.

Eric Fehr being a whole lot more talkative than I imagined he would be out there...and giving Matt Bradley some grief, it seemed, when Bradley was having trouble finding the back of the net in a rebound drill.

Olie Kolzig pacing himself, as one might expect a veteran to do, but getting sufficiently peeved over allowing a goal in the rebound drill that he took the puck that eluded him and flung it off the rink into the netting above the glass.

The oohs and aahs of a sweet move or a snappy save.


Kettler isn't the novelty is was in September. It has the look and feel of a rink well used. It's a nice way -- and a nice place -- to spend a Saturday morning.

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