Minnesota Wild coach, Todd Richards, put his team through a “bag skate” recently and his team responded with a big win over the Vancouver Canucks in their next game. “Bag skates” have been a tradition in hockey for as long as I can remember. The origination of the name “bag skate” is not quite clear. In technical terms a bag skate is “A team practice made of repetitive, strenuous skating drills and sprints, usually without pucks”. Some say the name originated because the pucks were left in the bag, others say that it’s because a bag may be needed in case you get sick…. Whatever the meaning, it’s quite clear to players who have been through it. It’s tough, it’s hell, and it’s a character builder. Coaches use it to send a message when all other tactics failed.
The worse “bag skate” I ever went through was in the AHL, late in my career. I was 33 years old and playing as a player/assistant coach for the Rochester Americans under Mike Keenan. I had just spent 14 straight seasons in the NHL when I signed with the Buffalo Sabres. After a 2-7-1 start, Mike put us through a workout I will never forget. We were in Moncton on a long road trip. The workout was so tough that players labeled it the “MONCTON MASSACRE”. We skated for about 90 minutes without any pucks. Players were throwing up over the boards, (no bags to be found) sometimes yelling their lungs out pleading for mercy. In my hotel room that night, I even contemplated retirement. I could put up with this abuse in the NHL but I wasn’t ready to endure such punishment in the minors. My wife, Nicole, in her usual wisdom convinced me to finish the trip and discuss it when we returned. The players rallied, mostly against Mike, but nevertheless jelled as a team and we went on to play 21 games with only one loss and eventually won the Calder Cup.
It’s a risky tactic for a coach but one that is often successful when used in a timely fashion. Overuse is very dangerous. The coach will lose its effectiveness and alienate the players. Other tactics will be exhausted before deciding to put the team through this agony. Changing line combinations, team and individual meetings, motivational speeches are usually the first line of defense against lackadaisical play. But when all else fails…the “bag skate” leaves no doubt that the coach is not happy. . .
PHIL-BITS: PHOENIX @ DETROIT
- Chris Osgood hadn’t played in 14 days and showed signs of rust in the first period. He should have stopped 2 of the 3 goals. But he redeemed himself the rest of the game to give his team a chance for a comeback.
- Mike Babcock showed great patience keeping his veteran net minder in the game after the 3rd goal, ignoring the “Boo Birds” in Joe Louis Arena. A good decision that almost worked for him tonight but will pay dividends later.
- Mike is also showing a lot of patience with Mike Modano who really has been playing below expectations so far.
- The NHL “Brass” was in attendance tonight. Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly and V.P media relations, Frank Brown. (Thanks for reading my blog Frank)
- The Coyotes PK was excellent and made the difference. Special mention to Belanger, Korpikoski and Fiddler and the defense in keeping the Wings on the outside and preventing the best puck retrieving team down low to get second chances.
- Ilya Bryzgalov was excellent in goal. (43 shots) He’s an excellent first shot blocker and he didn’t face many second chances.
- 19 year old Oliver Ekman-Larsson looks like a “keeper”. He’s cool under pressure, has good size and skills. Makes an excellent first pass on break-outs.
- WORLD SERIES: I don’t watch a lot of baseball but I had never seen a baseball bat propelled into the stands from a player swinging for a strike like it did in the first game of the Series. Has any of you ever seen that?
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!