Chase Souto channels his inner Leonardo DiCaprio on the ferry en route to Victoria this week. The Blazer forward and his teammates kept the mood light on the way to the provincial capital. For more stories, photos and video of the first post-season WHL road trip to Victoria in 23 years, check out the rest of KTW's website.
Blazers bond as they hit open seas
By Marty Hastings - Kamloops This Week
Published: March 28, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: March 28, 2012 4:05 PM
Dull moments were few and far between on the Kamloops Blazers’ road trip to Victoria this week.
Playoffs or not, the players keep the mood loose on off-days — and that’s fine by the coaching staff.
“The atmosphere is pretty light,” said head coach Guy Charron, whose Blazers travelled to Vancouver Island to meet the Victoria Royals in games 3 and 4 of a Western Hockey League Western Conference quarter-final series.
“Each player has a different way to prepare.”
Team trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson kicked things off on Monday morning aboard the Blazer bus — driven by longtime coach captain Brennan Driedger — with a round of trivia that doubled as a comedy routine.
While he was broadcasting on the public-address speakers, Charron and associate coach Dave Hunchak handed out sandwiches.
The Blazer bench bosses were not too impressed with the disorganized manner in which the tasty treats were dispersed.
Charron blamed the goaltenders, much to the amusement of many aboard the bus.
“You goalies, you’re in your own world,” the head coach said.
“You have your own language.”
Ribbing like that was not uncommon throughout the road trip.
“Game days are pretty serious,” Blazer defenceman Tyler Hansen said.
“Guys are either sleeping or focusing.
“On off-days, it’s pretty fun. The guys are watching movies, hanging out and pulling pranks on each other.”
Before long, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was playing on the bus DVD system and a lull came over the tiring passengers.
Some managed to sit through both video presentations, while others fell asleep and woke up when the bus arrived at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal.
With renewed energy, the Blazers boarded the ferry.
The arcades were popular spots, as were the outdoor decks, which provided fantastic views en route to Swartz Bay, despite the overcast weather.
Several of the Blazers agreed to be interviewed on camera by KTW, with much of the subject matter kept light, despite the impending playoff game.
“We have this time off, so we’re trying not to be too serious and put too much pressure on ourselves,” said Hansen, a Magrath, Alta., product.
Maybe the jovial atmosphere on the ferry could have been attributed to the players’ knowledge of their next dining location — The Keg.
Driedger drove the team from Swartz Bay to a Victoria Sandman hotel, owned by Blazer majority owner Tom Gaglardi.
After a quick freshening-up stop in their rooms, players and staff returned to the bus in dress clothes.
Robinson hopped back on the public-address system for a few quick jokes before the team was dropped off for dinner.
A $30 limit was in effect for the players, who enjoyed everything from prime rib to chicken and ribs.
Fancy dinners like the one enjoyed on Monday night are not the norm, according to Blazer media man Tim O’Donovan — it was a special playoff occasion.
“We had a good dinner last night,” Guy Charron said the following day [Tuesday].
“It was a good travel day.”
Robinson told a few bedtime jokes en route to the Sandman, where players had to be in their rooms by 10 p.m.
The staff mingled for a while at the hotel, but a long day of travel had taken its toll and the night was short-lived.
If anyone was nervous on Monday, it didn’t show.
Perhaps that was because the Blazers were up 2-0 on the Royals, a team Kamloops had defeated seven times in eight games during the regular season.
On Tuesday night, the Blazers beat the Royals 7-5 in Game 3, taking a stranglehold on the B.C. Division showdown.
It’s safe to say the mood might have darkened if the Blazers had lost the third game, but they didn’t, and the players were upbeat on Wednesday as Game 4 approached.
“For the most part, it’s still pretty relaxed,” Hansen said, “as relaxed as it would be during the regular season.
“[The coaching staff] has been good about letting us do or own thing because it’s been working the whole year.”