Chapter Five: Little Details
I skipped over Brody’s hockey practice in the previous post so that I could pretty much sum up the (non-romance/non-sexing) plot all in one entry. But I’m returning to it now. Brody’s scene begins after a “particularly grueling practice” of “two hours of tedious drills” (63). I can’t say for sure as I am not, in fact, an NHL coach, but this sounds unlikely. I have been to far too many Coyotes practices to admit to (unlike some teams, their practices are open to the public) during the regular season. Admittedly, not during playoffs as those are closed. Still, even on a normal non-game day, on-ice practice never goes for two hours. They tend to schedule ice time for almost two hours, but they never use all of it. (They have other kinds of things that need doing, too, like working out and watching videos and talking game strategy.) I have to believe that this goes double for playoffs. By playoffs, you’ve already played 82 regular season games. Your team is as much a team as it’s going to be, so it’s not about gelling. Many of your players are playing through injuries, because hockey players do that, especially when it’s about the Cup. And drills just aren’t going to be that helpful this late in the game. Do they practice? Absolutely. Do they do two hours of tedious drills? No.
The other weird thing is the following passage about practices. (I’ll explain afterward).
The Warriors practiced in a private arena a few miles from the Lincoln Center, a little unorthodox but Brody found it somewhat of a relief. It meant the media never filmed their practices, which took the pressure off the players to always be on top of their game (64).
I’ll explain first that in this context, “Lincoln Center” is the arena in which the Warriors play their home games. But let’s parse the rest of this.
First, a “private arena” is an odd term. An arena is by definition a place for spectators to watch events. Does this private arena have seats but no one is actually allowed in? The term “private arena” does get used, but in that context it’s about who owns the arena, not who is allowed into it. Currently, the arena in which the Coyotes play is owned by the city of Glendale, which makes it a public arena. The city council is hoping that the team’s new owners will buy the arena in a few years, which would then make it a private arena, meaning city funds would no longer be needed to pay for maintenance and use (not to mention paying off the millions of dollars that are owed on it. I digress.) There are also public-private arenas but I’m getting away from the point here, which is that the term has to do with taxpayer money and nothing to do with who uses it, other than money always has something to do with who uses what.
I assume what the author meant here by “private arena” is actually more a “private rink,” meaning a sheet of ice (or more), with a locker room for the team, and all the required paraphernalia of running a hockey facility. Private here can still then mean not-owned-by-taxpayers but can also refer to who is allowed in. Regardless, it’s not “a little unorthodox” as Brody thinks it is. Nor, in fact, does it necessarily mandate if the media are allowed in or not.
Let me elaborate using the Coyotes again. They play in a (public) arena in Glendale, on the west side of the Valley of the Sun. (Even so, people aren’t always allowed to freely come and go in that arena. They need permission or a ticket, depending on the time. So media would be just as easy to control there as elsewhere.) However, the Coyotes very seldom actually practice in Glendale. Instead, they practice in Scottsdale, on the east side of the valley. It’s also where most of the players live. They practice in a privately owned rink which has three sheets of ice, all of which are in almost constant use by figure skaters and local hockey clubs. The Coyotes have their own locker room and practice in the smallest area without much in the way of bleachers or spectator space. And the media is almost always there. The Coyotes broadcast team is usually having coffee before the players hit the ice at the lobby coffee bar and then watch the practices to have ideas on what to look for and say before and during the games. And if something of broader interest is happening, various news outlets show up, too. (This happened when the Coyotes got to the Western Conference Finals and it happened unfortunately a lot when the team was owned by the NHL and in limbo.) There’s even a space where the Coyotes broadcast media or FoxSports AZ tack up their logos as a background and players and coaches can be interviewed.
And lest you think this is all some wacky way of arranging things because the Coyotes are crazy enough to play ice hockey in a desert, let me assure you that’s not the case. For example, the Vancouver Canucks play in Rogers Arena in Vancouver, but they practice in a rink in Burnaby. The Philadelphia Flyers who play in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? They practice in a private rink in New Jersey. And the Chicago Blackhawks? Because this book is set in Chicago, I looked it up, even though I try to distance myself from all things Blackhawks-related. The Blackhawks play in the United Center… and practice at Johnny’s Ice-House. I didn’t google every team, but I haven’t yet found an NHL team that doesn’t practice somewhere other than where they play. It is in no way “a little unorthodox.”
It’s such a tiny, tiny throwaway thing in this book, just like the fact that Brody wasn’t wearing a suit, but it’s this kind of thing that makes me wonder if the author really is a fan of hockey or just likes athletes in a vague, general way and knows enough about hockey to toss in a few references and analogies.