August 26, 2011
As a hockey player, you spend what seems like a ridiculous amount of time at the arena. It's only natural that the hours leading up to and after practice get boring.
The natural cure for the boredom then, is to mess with as many of your teammates as possible. Yes, pranks.
I was never a huge fan of this stuff. I've always thought the dressing room should be a safe haven where you can relax, prepare, and have a good ol' time. It doesn't need to be stressful.
But, thanks to a couple grown-up kids in there, you always have to stay on guard. I got to a point where as long as I wasn't involved, I enjoyed watching the battles from the outside.
The pranks come in varying levels of the seriousness — some are meant as revenge for some perceived slight, while others are for sheer entertainment value.
A rookie who sasses off a little too much probably won't immediately get yelled at or decked as much as he'll just get tortured for a good week or two.
About the only prank I enjoyed taking part in was semi-cutting a guy's laces before practice, just enough so he snaps them while lacing up. It's infuriating.
Ideally, you want him to be putting on his skates just before heading out onto the ice thinking everything is fine. You just pick a spot on the laces and whittle it down so there's just a few threads holding together, and voila.
You want the guy to look for the cut in his laces (lazy people use scissors and actually cut 'em) and not find it, then wonder if it was a teammate or karma. He'll immediately look around the room to see who's watching him -- he won't see anyone, of course, but when lace number two goes ... he'll know.
Best-case scenario: You make him late for practice.
Also fun: Taking the plug out of a guy's stick and putting a penny or two in there, then putting the plug back in and taping a fresh knob. We're kids, people. There's nothing diabolical in any of these oh-so-complex schemes, it's purely for entertainment value.
If you're feeling like a real jerk, you can fill it with water. Watching a guy pick his stick up and go "oh, c'mon" is always a fun moment.
A lot of this stuff is just about "getting" a guy, even if it doesn't affect his morning.
Exhibit A for that is the cup of water in the shinpads.
You keep your shinpads on the top of your stall in most arenas. Being that you can't see all the way up there, it's a nice place for a teammate to plant a full cup of water, so when you pull down the shinpads to put them on, you dump water on yourself.
There are moves that take some time — injured players usually stay in the locker room to get treatment while guys are on the ice. That time on the training table while you wait for the electrical stimulation machine to run its course can be used to sew the legs of your friend's jeans together, or sewing the leg holes shut.
If you can actually get someone to trip while dressing due to that, it's basically the Stanley Cup of prank success.
There is, however, some code involved with some of this stuff.
As a hockey player, you know to not sit down in a restaurant with your back facing the team — you're too easily shoe checked there. A corner seat is ideal, but you want to at least have your back to a wall (I still sit like this today, force of habit).
A shoe check is the most petty thing ever — somebody crawls under the table with a spoonful of something gross from the meal (ranch dressing, maybe?), dumps it on the toe of a guy's shoe, and crawls back. Most people see it happening, so it's their job to distract the target.
If the guy makes it back, the whole team will clang their glasses with their utensil of choice, and the recipient will show the team that yes, in fact, he was "got" (I've seen suede shoes ruined thanks to this stupid game). This happens at just about every meal, it's mind-boggling that guys seem to think it never gets old.
The code part: If you catch a guy trying to shoe check you, it's pretty universally accepted that you're allowed to dump the nearest pitcher of water on him with zero repercussions.
(Often, rookies will get set up — "Hey, go shoe check Smitty." Meanwhile, Smitty is well informed the kid is on the way, and has plenty of water for dumping nearby).
Whether it's Icy Hot in the jock or setting up leaners in the hotel (leaning a full garbage can of water on someone's door so when they open it…), it's just a part of the life. No relaxing allowed.
At times, it wears on you, but what are you supposed to do? The more you complain, the more you'll get coming your way, so just remember to check your shinpads before pulling them down, open your hotel door gingerly, watch your feet and stay on guard.