Thursday, September 30, 2010
Ryan Johansen + Dark Blue Toddler = BFF
Surprisingly, the Dark Blue Toddler and I were the only two -- ummm -- civilians in the arena today to watch practice. The squad playing tonight in Minnesota had the early shift and was supposed to be on the ice until 11AM. They pretty much bailed out at 10:45, and DBT and I only caught about 5-10 minutes of them because we were running late. The next practice, for the squad not going to Minneapolis, was supposed to start at 11:30.
So we hung out for a while, knowing that we were supposed to meet Mrs. Dark Blue Jacket for lunch and didn't want to show up at 10:45 and ruin her schedule. We rode the escalators and cruised around the concourse a little - things a 16-month-old loves - and yakked it up with the very nice ushers (who have already started to know DBT by name).
And then one player came out early and just sat on the bench by himself for the longest time as the zamboni whizzed around the area (much to the delight of DBT, whose first Christmas present ever was "Z is for Zamboni"). It was Ryan Johansen, and it seemed as if "The Johan" was trying to get centered while waiting out the zamboni. Never one to miss the opportunity to mess with a guy's concentration (Hi, Steve Mason!), DBT and I trotted down to the front row.
After spending a couple minutes being mesmerized by the zamboni, DBT saw Johansen on the opposite side bench. We waved to him, and he nodded that he saw us. The zamboni wrapped up, upon which Johansen grabbed his sticks for practice and headed out onto the Nationwide Arena ice.
Then, get this, Ryan Johansen came across the ice and handed one of his practice sticks over the glass for me to give to the Dark Blue Toddler. I'm staring at it as I type - a Bauer Vapor X:60...perhaps the longest hockey stick that I've ever seen (Johansen's a tall guy at 6'3", and tall guys need long sticks). He did not have to do that. There was absolutely no one else in the arena who would notice or care. But he did, and that was really, really cool. So I offered profuse "thank you's" through the glass and showed DBT his new hockey prize. And, pretty much like always, DBT said, "Hockey!"
Johansen started loosening up on the ice by himself while waiting for his teammates. I briefly talked with him through the glass...he still had that "pinch me, I'm in the NHL" attitude, especially about playing with Rick Nash and R.J. Umberger on his opening preseason appearance. He had no idea if he was going to stick on the NHL roster or go back to juniors.
He also suggested that the big difference between juniors and the NHL is speed. That's a pretty stock answer, so I asked what he meant. As a center, he said that the speed in the NHL means that nearly every pass is a no-look pass. He flies down the middle, dumps the puck off to the left or right and presumes that a winger will be there because they are one or two steps behind. Never sees his teammates until they receive the pass. Faith-based puck movement, if you will.
By that point, John Moore and David LeNeveu were coming onto the ice and Johansen had to get to practice. Fair enough - that's what he's here for! And, with DBT melting down and a spouse waiting for us to grab lunch, it was time to get moving.
What a great guy, Johansen. And, again, thank you to the Blue Jackets for opening up practices -- and for allowing for such moments to happen.
Labels: Ryan Johansen