Shorts aren't just for Houston (Photo by Heather Bronwell)
Aeros equipment manager and resident comedian Rick Bronwell continues his Aeros.com blog. Rick loves hearing from his fans...rather, Aeros fans...so e-mail him now.
Greeting and salutations from Sugar Land, Texas, home of Blog Central, the Houston Aeros and Rick Bronwell, blogger extraodinaire.
We’re just home for one game but it’s a big one. We’re again expecting one of the biggest crowds ever at Toyota Center. There’s a chance three of the top six crowds ever will happen in a two-month stretch, how great is that. Aeros.com is your place for all information on tickets. Get some friends together and call 713.974.PUCK to get a group discount. It’s a huge night. Will Makar from American Idol (maybe he’ll join Hold the Mayo!) will sing. And they tell me that the owner of Buc-ee’s will not only be in attendance, but I’ll get to meet him! It’s like Christmas in March.
Ok, here we go.
Heather brought her camera and met up with us on the last trip, and we took some pictures of the room in Omaha. The Blog is hoping to build a digital camera into the budget next year, so you guys know what all the rooms look like in the league, and what other rinks look like. Let’s put a fund together and get a camera for me.
|The Ipod - the key to setting up any good locker room
||Jerry Meins has been taping ankles longer than anyone in the biz.
|The gear is set up, just waiting for the boys
||While the team is on the ice
|How Jerry keeps us healthy
||Skate sharpener and tools
For those of you who think I only wear shorts at home, you’re wrong, I wear them anywhere. I don’t care where I’m at, if it’s negative 20. That’s my signature. That, the chin hair goatee and the wife that yells at me all the time. Those are my signatures.
Thanks to Channel 13 and Channel 11 for putting the Hold the Mayo name out there. We’re getting ready for the concert on Tuesday at Maple Leaf Pub. You’d better be there. If you’re anyone, you’ll be there. People in Peoria ordered CD’s online. Some college buddies of Benny’s ordered them online and want them autographed. The whole thing is definitely special. We had a little jam session by the pool last night. We’re getting together a bunch of covers we’re going to play. It is going to be a blast, make sure you come out, and then stay afterwards to watch the Wild and the Canucks.
The last trip was pretty straightforward from how I told you it would be. Well, maybe not so much. Obviously, the expected didn’t happen. We’ll do a rundown. Bear with me. We’ll let the reader see what we go through on the road sometimes, on this wonderful, beautiful trip to the Arctic. Pretty much that’s where we were.
We go to fly out on Thursday. We’re playing Friday in Omaha. We have a direct flight to Omaha. They had this big snowstorm. I call it a “Snow-O’Cane”. It looked like hurricane rotating around the Midwest. It was windy like you wouldn’t believe. And we didn’t know. We’re in Houston, it’s 78, we’re waiting to take off at 1:30 p.m.
We’re flying in a regional jet. The flight’s delayed 20 minutes – not a big deal – due to weather in Omaha. They were getting hammered. Twenty turned into 40, and 45 minutes later, we hop on a bus to a plane. Then they told us to turn around, go back to the terminal, because the Omaha airport is shut down.
So now it’s 3 p.m. We finally get on the plane. As I’m sitting in my seat…And we find out there are weight restrictions on the flight, and it’s a full flight, and we have to somehow get our gear on the plane. They asked some people to get off the plane for a $500 credit for future flights. So I go ahead and volunteer myself. I would love to have that credit, but since the gear is under my name, I had to stay on that flight.
So I get off and tell them what doesn’t have to go on that flight necessarily. We got everything but the trunks on the first flight. I get back on the plane, and we have four regular passengers who get off the plane to take the later flight. We start taxi-ing. I fall asleep along with most of the team. And all of a sudden, next thing we know, we’re stopping. I couldn’t believe we were already in Omaha. We weren’t. We were on the tarmac in Houston for a little more than 30 minutes. The plane had to come back – mechanical problems. So we had to switch planes. We got to the terminal, waited 45 minutes, finally flew out and we got into Omaha about 6:30 p.m. And Stanzel is calling me to find out what number Aaron Voros is going to where, because all this was happening on the day of the trade deadline. We decided on No. 25, right there while Stanzel was in the Arby’s Drive-Thru. It's scientific stuff.
Our other gear got on another flight with Ken Double, who does a lot of flights with his pipe organ concert tours. So he took the first flight, which was only $150 credit. If he’d have waited an extra hour, he’d have gotten $500. I think he got it later, because he probably made a fuss about it. Kenny D, you gotta’ love the guy. His flight actually left before ours, even though it was supposed to leave two hours later, and got in before ours did.
There was Creighton women’s basketball so we couldn’t move into the room until 10:30 p.m. There’s so much snow in Omaha. Jerry and I make our penguin trudge…that’s how you walk when it’s snowy and icy and you live in Houston. It’s only a five minute walk, but I think it took us 20 minutes to get to where the loading dock is at the Civic Center.
We got back to the hotel at 11:30 p.m., thinking it was a great day – no problems.
Meanwhile, we rented a truck to take our gear from Omaha to Peoria after Friday’s game. It’s a six hour drive under ideal conditions. So I go to rent the truck on Friday afternoon. The wife came up and visited, since she was in Kansas City visiting my sister. She took me out to go pick up the rental truck. I waited there an hour, apparently they had no clue we were renting a truck even though I called earlier in the week. So I look out, and I-80 is closed, that’s what we take to Des Moines – it’s two hours, then it’s still another four hours plus to get to Peoria. So how do we get there? I talk to a trucker who was at the rental truck place. He gave me a two-lane highway to drive, it’s a bit south of I-80. Two lane highways are always fun in that weather. The snow was supposed to stop Friday. It kept snowing, with 35-40 m.p.h. wind gusts. There was snow and ice on the road. This is such a long story.
In the meantime, we had to scrap the plans of flying the team from Omaha to Chicago and then bussing to Peoria, because our plane couldn’t get into Omaha. So the team stayed over and left a bit after 5 a.m. Saturday.
So Shawsy and I decide to go on with the equipment truck. Thank God Shawsy drove with me. It was nice to not be by myself. We hop in the truck and go to get on I-80. We start hitting this big lineup of I’d say 150 semi-trucks sitting on the side of the road, the lights on, waiting for the road to open up. The one cop in the area says there is too much snow and too much ice. We ask the cop how his family is, and then we turn around, do a U-ey, and go back and take I-80 to 29 South. And we make a bunch of other turns. It normally takes two hours to get to Des Moines. I left four fingernails in that steering wheel, it was a nightmare – a scary, scary time. It was 11:30 p.m. or midnight, the plows are going down the road blowing you around. You’re trying to follow the tracks in the snow from what the car in front of you left. The wind is blowing from north to south, so it’s across left to right across the highway. Shawsy’s like “Watch out”, I’d be hitting rumble strips if they had them on the road. They figure you’re not stupid enough to drive on this road in the snow.
It took almost four hours to get to Des Moines, where we had arranged a hotel. We got in at 3:15 a.m. We got up at 8 a.m., and it was pretty much smooth sailing east of Des Moines to Peoria. You wouldn’t believe the amount of cars on the side of the road, semis jackknifed, cars on their sides. You’d drive four or five miles and then see like eight cars on the side of the road, and then two semis, one in the ditch. The main reason they closed the road was they needed to get the vehicles off the highway.
We played the games Saturday and Sunday. I had to change two visors – some of the guys are pretty emotional about the losing streak. They are trying their best and it’s just not falling our way. The team definitely plays a lot harder than the wins show.
After the game, Jerry and I hopped in the same rental truck and drove to Chicago. We get into Chicago, and we were supposed to skate at Allstate Monday and Tuesday. But it turned out they had to get a bunch of stuff ready for the Justin Timberlake concert – which is next Tuesday, the same day as our Maple Leaf gig, how ironic. We went to a practice rink, but we got to keep the room in Allstate, so the guys met there at 9 a.m. They got halfway dressed, finished at the practice rink and practiced for an hour. I want to say thank you to all the West Meadows Ice Rink people in Rolling Meadows. Thanks go out to Bill Bentley for setting up the ice time. We had very little time to schedule.
We played there Wednesday, packed up and came back home Thursday. There were no problems other than the first three days, they were pretty hair-raising.
Donny had the whole week off. He spruced up the practice rink quite a bit. He cleaned up the floors in the bathroom, cleaned the showers, drained the hot tub. The place looked great. He’s a great assistant. If you ever see him, slap him in the face for me.
Q: I took my daughter and a group of girls to some games, and #5 Erik Reitz is now the most popular player in Katy, Texas. They are always asking me when can I take them to another game to see #5. It's funny to see what an impact the guys and the game have taken on to my group of girls who love hockey!!!!!!! – Jennifer
A: All of our players are great. But I’m surprised I’m not the most popular guy in Katy, next to Roger Creager of course. That guy rocks out. I’ll tell Reitzee.
Q: Rick – I have a question regarding the hockey sticks and how the players tape them up for a game. We sit right behind the penalty box and one night Matt Foy took a new stick to the box and very quickly taped the blade and the handle. Two questions; Do you or the players tape up their sticks? And I couldn't tell if Matt put a knob of tape on the end of his handle to pick up the stick if he dropped it on the ice. I thought that most all sticks had the end taped off so they can grab it from the ice quickly? – Thanks, Bill
A: Usually players do their own sticks, they have their own personal handles – knobs. Or you can call a person who doesn’t do what they want a knob. It works out good. I don’t know why he would have taken a new stick to the box. Donny must have given him one. They call sticks “dead” if they’re still in one piece but the flex has run out. The flexes go from a five which is whippy to a 100 which is decent and then you have 110 which is pretty stiff. Sometimes if a guy is using a stick with a flex and it jumps down because it’s been flexed so much, that’s called “dead”. Or the curve might be a little bit off. Chances are that’s what Foy was doing. His knob is pretty easy to tape.
The only time we tape up sticks…Shawn Belle has a knob on his stick to make it 1 ½ inch longer. He usually gives it to me or Donny and we tape it for him. We’ll tape them if they don’t have time, or if they have a quick shift. It’s for the handle though, it’s not really to pick it up on the ice. I’m looking at Peter Olvecky’s stick right now, and there’s no knob at the top, just tape. It’s just for their personal preference and how it feels in their hand.
In this day and age when all of our sticks look the same it’s nice to have different handles. When a guy needs a new one, I can grab one really quick. You learn the handles really well. I’ll put numbers on the sticks at the beginning of the year but once you learn how they tape the tops of their sticks, you know who is who.
Q: Hi Rick. Here is the picture I talked with you about at the banquet. This is our 5 month old husky pup that is, what we feel, a twin to Chilly dog. Please share this with Chilly for me if you have time. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work. – Pam
A: Thanks for the note, Pam. Great looking dog! Chilly says “RUFF”!
Thanks for bearing with me on the travel stories. You just can’t leave out small details. We’ll be back with a blog next week previewing our big road trip out East. And then to the real tundra – Winnipeg, Manitoba. Keep the questions and feedback coming!