Home-away-from-home ice advantage
The Kings were once again in downtown Los Angeles in the morning, staying in their home-away-from-home – or is it their home that is actually also their home? A second home, maybe? Regardless, they stayed overnight at a hotel across the street from Staples Center. It housed them during select nights of the Stanley Cup run a year ago and will do so again during portions of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs – a choice that was made by the players, according to Darryl Sutter.
“They wanted to skate at the big rink [and to] beat traffic. It was either come over this morning or come last night,” he said.”
It’s a change from the regular season when the team makes a short commute from their Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach residences north on Sepulveda Boulevard to the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo for a morning skate. Afterwards, players typically return home for a brief nap before carpooling to Staples Center in the late afternoon and returning to the South Bay once the game is over. Repeat-times-41 (or, as was the case this year, times-24).
And there you have the thrilling depiction of Staples Center-commuting. I’d throw in a reference to the Saturday Night Live sketch entitled The Californians WHICH YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH AT BECAUSE THEY’RE MAKING FUN OF US but Eric Duhatschek of the Globe and Mail beat me to the punch.
You should read that Globe and Mail article, by the way.
Back to the topic on hand. Skating at Staples Center in the morning is a welcome rarity, according to Dustin Brown.
“I think it just gives you a little more focus,” the Kings’ captain said. “Unfortunately we can’t do it during the regular season because of Staples’ scheduling and traffic. But it makes it seem more like our home rink from a players’ standpoint practicing here in the morning. During the regular season I don’t think we’ve ever done it really, except for maybe on Saturdays – picture day or something like that…It definitely helps with the being-at-home feeling.”
For Drew Doughty, practicing at Staples Center the morning of a game helps re-acclimate the team to the various contours of what isn’t generally known as a pristine ice surface. The boards are also aren’t quite as “lively” at Staples compared to other rinks.
“I guess you kind of get used to the ice at Staples and the boards and stuff like that, because every rink’s different. Boards bounce differently,” Doughty said. “We don’t get many practice times here at Staples, so it’s good to kind of get used to that because some times when we come in here, we’re just as used to the ice as the other team, which isn’t good. So I guess that’s an advantage that we have.”
Though opening a playoff series at home for the first time in 21 presents a unique opportunity, it doesn’t necessarily change the way the team prepares for the game.
“It doesn’t change our approach, but our mindset – we’ve played really well on home ice this year. It’s a matter of getting to where we need to be mentally to protect our home ice advantage,” Doughty said.