Wine and cheese or chip and dip?

Jason Strudwick
July 09 2012 10:40AM

After signing or being traded to a new team during the summer, players start making plans to move and quickly get settled into their new city before training camp opens. Just like anyone who gets transferred, moving takes quite a bit of time, and work and decisions need to be handled quickly.

Anyone who has moved to a new city knows how hard it can be, especially with a family. All NHL teams recognize that and want to make it easier. To help their players with the transition, most now have a person dedicated to that specific task. The role is usually called something like coordinator of family services. This person can help with all of it, both moving to the city, getting settled and finding answers to issues that may come up during the season. This is a huge bonus when moving to a city you are not familiar with.

Where to move to? Can the team recommend a real estate agent, a moving company or a doctor? If the player has kids which schools should they put them in? Are there any babysitters? The family services coordinator can answer all of these and more.

Leadership

The team leaders will reach out to the new guys. They will call to welcome them, give them the lay of the land about the team, the new team mates, as well as answer any questions. The day after I signed with the Oilers I got a call from Ethan Moreau.

We knew each other a little from playing against one another over the years but it was very classy that he called so quickly. For me, that spoke volumes as to what kind of a guy he was. We talked about the coach, MacT at the time, and what I could expect from him. I was already living in Edmonton so I didn't need any help with getting to know the city but I was very interested in how the team travelled.

Travel

Moving back west to Edmonton wasn't a concern for me but readjusting to all the extra miles on the plane during road trips was. Most western conference teams travel a lot more than eastern conference clubs. I had been spoiled playing for the Rangers. The team was rarely on the road and a five day road trip would be considered long.

By Edmonton standards five days was very short. Moreau explained that road trips of ten days were not uncommon but that the families of the guys on the team were very close. The wives/girlfriends/kids got together a lot while the team was on the road. As a new guy on a team that is the kind of intel that you will not get from anyone other than players actually on the team.

He was right about those longer road trips...I slept like a baby most of those flights!

Getting to know the team

New players don't get to meet the bulk of their new team mates until camp. Camp is usually hectic between practices, games and all the extra guys around. It is usually about a week before the season when the main team is together and team bonds start to get established.

There are many ways to bring a team together quickly which is very important in helping to get off to a good start. Retreats into the woods for team bonding can work and so can team building programs.

I always found a team BBQ or mixer worked great as well. It was nice to meet all the guys significant others and kids. My style was chips and dip!

Previously by Jason Strudwick

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Jason hosts the Jason Strudwick show from 9pm to 12am, weeknights on the team 1260. He is an instructor at Mount Carmel Hockey Academy and loves working with the kids. Having played over 650 games in the NHL, Jason has some great stories and unique takes on life in the NHL. He loves Slurpees and Blizzards. Dislikes baggy clothes and close talkers.
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#1 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
July 09 2012, 10:55AM
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These articles are a pleasure to read. It's really interesting to hear about how things happened to you during your career.

For a new player signing with the team, would it likely always be a call from someone on the leadership group or would it be from someone closer to the new players age (ie Gagner/Hall/Ebs for when J. Schultz signed vs. Horcoff/Smyth if some old balls signed on)

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#2 The Towel Boy
July 09 2012, 11:00AM
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I love a good dip and chip. ...and beer. I love beer too.

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#3 vetinari
July 09 2012, 11:10AM
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I imagine that it would be like the first day at a new school for a teenager: some of the older kids know each other from previous years while others are transferring in and just getting the lay of the land.

Of course, that would be the best time to pull a few jokes on the newbies: "hey, new guy, the coach HATES being called MacT-- call him Coach MacCheese instead-- he'll respect you for it..."

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#4 Stocc
July 09 2012, 10:45AM
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All Dressed Ruffles with Philadelphia Herb and Spice dip. Can't be beat.

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#5 sitting-at-my-desk
July 09 2012, 10:45AM
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My wife makes a killer Jalapeño dip!

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#6 MrCondor
July 09 2012, 11:17AM
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Awesome inside story as always.

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#7 Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!
July 09 2012, 11:43AM
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Good stuff, Struds!

You (and Geno) reminded me why I loved Moreau for so many years, and not why I wanted him gone towards the end.

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Great article struds, really appreciate the stuff your putting up here on ON, love getting an inside look into the little things we as fans forget or dont realize goes on behind the scenes

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#11 Gret99zky
July 09 2012, 12:04PM
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Wish we had a captain.

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#12 pelhem grenville
July 09 2012, 12:28PM
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...John Chambers always recommends the dip...

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#13 Pouzar99
July 09 2012, 04:35PM
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What is interesting Jason are the kinds of things that makes a particular club or city attractive to players, although of course that can vary depending on specific circumstances. We talk a lot about the salary cap, as we should, but it is rarely mentioned that other spending outside the cap makes a huge difference as well. How much a team spends on its minor league affiliate and its coaching staff, how much they invest in having the best and most scouts, top of the line facilities, a comfortable private plane and staff assigned to help players and families moving here, are all important factors in team success.

Whatever one thinks of Katz and the financing of the new building his willingness to spend on the club is vitally important. In addition creating the right kind of culture in the dressing room is also crucial. Gauging character as well as talent when bringing in players must also be considered. Gretzky always emphasized that having a very close cluster of players was a key to Oiler success in the 1980s. Moreau and Staois didn't fit in the Oiler youth movement but their leadership is missed and one can only hope that some of the new players are taking up the reins and vets like Horc andSmytty are passing on that tradition.

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