ATLANTA – All-Star coaches were asked their opinion on the tradition of morning skates. Are they really necessary, or are they more trouble than they are worth, considering the traffic players have to battle getting to and from rinks and the extra toll the 20-minute sessions could have over an already grueling season?
Neither bit on the side of change.
"We look as the season goes on as maybe starting to make them optional," said Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock of the East. "I think besides the skate, you do some of your preparation for the players in terms of who you're playing and stuff. And you like to get them out together as a group."
"The older guys on the team, part of it is (showing) leadership, but they've got to get their motor running," said Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock of the West. "It is part of their life, part of their routine. What are they going to do all day? You want to get prepared, feeling good about your sticks and how you feel. You would be amazed how many times guys are there (for optionals) anyway. They just come in and want to do it."
To me, because morning skates almost always are held between 10 a.m. and noon on game days, it seems like a great opportunity for school field trips. Let the kids in free to watch the skates, give them a tour of the arena, let them meet and chat with a player after a skate.
You might just gain some lifelong fans in the process.
- John Paddock