CINCINNATI -- Sitting here in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena, a couple of things come to mind.
It pains The Blog a touch that he had to walk past a Cincinnati Reds game getting ready to drop at the Great American Ball Park and come to the Alaska Aces' practice -- we know, selfish.
Beauty day here -- feels like 70s, with a nice breeze along the Ohio River.
These seats in the lower bowl rock -- nice and cushiony, wood armrests and, yo, cup-holders. Only criticism -- been sitting here 10 minutes and the beer vendor has yet to visit. Perhaps that's because it isn't yet 1 p.m. And there isn't a game. Still, we have an empty, lonely, cup-holder here. Life is but a series of small tragedies.
Oh, and the Aces are currently practicing -- to the sounds of a grinder as hard-hatted construction dudes -- you know, guys with real jobs, not dudes from the typing factory like a certain someone -- do some work. The Aces look fantastic. Or OK. Or better than average. Hey, it's a practice. Whatever. I do know they are trying to do everything at high tempo, both because that's the way good teams roll, and also to get the junk out of their legs from the travel night and day from hell as Tuesday melted into Wednesday during a long plane flight to Chicago and long bus trip to Cincinnati.
Speaking of fatigue, veteran goaltender Gerald Coleman said before practice he actually felt pretty good when he awoke this morning. Of course, he confessed, he rode in first-class during the team's direct flight from Anchorage to Chicago -- "Perks of being a nine-year guy,'' Coleman said as he rode a stationary bicycle outside the dressing room before practice. He said he slept for four or five hours of the flight. He also racked about three hours of sleep -- lying down in a bunk -- on the sleeper bus that transported the Aces from Chicago to Cincy.
Besides, he's a dad. "I don't really need much sleep,'' Coleman said. "I have a son'' -- Bryson, who is 20 months old.
Defenseman Kane Lafranchise, who got some sleep on the bus, said he didn't feel that bad, either.
"Little tired,'' he said. "Was a long day. To be honest, I felt better than I thought I would. Obviously, it's June, so I'm sure everyone feels a little hazy.'' Yeah, long season and all.
The Blog, by comparison, woke up this morning after a strong night's sleep, feeling like he'd been hit by a bus. Cup of strong coffee and some exercise helped, but the ink-stained wretch is not as young as he used to be, and has the AARP card to prove it.
The visiting dressing room here has a tunnel that leads directly to the visiting bench. Coach Rob Murray and Louis Mass have set up their computers on a table just outside one of the doors to the dressing room -- "Our office,'' Mass said. Behind them, down a ramp, is a an overhead, roll-up door. "Bet it's a cold office in the winter,'' Murray said.
Mass, taping up his stick before practice, was asked, facetiously, if he really needed new tape just to push around pucks during practice, or was he planning on showcasing his skills today.
"It takes incredible focus -- I push pucks, and I snipe,'' mused the man who apparently does it all.
"I've seen it, a couple of times,'' offered winger Brett Findlay, with only a slight smirk. "He's impressed me. He's also taken a couple of diggers'' -- hockey parlance for pratfalls.
"We don't talk about those,'' Mass mused.
After practice, Mass said he didn't even try to snipe anyone today. He usually saves it for game day on Coleman, he said -- he's a beauty.
One last disconnected thought -- The Blog is old, travel is hard, try to keep up, kids, while we throw stuff onto the blog page -- about the arena here. Being around the Olympic-sized ice at Sullivan Arena so often, you sometimes forget how small an NHL-sized sheet like the one here appears by comparison. The rink still is 200 feet long here, but 85 feet wide, 15 feet narrower than Oly ice, so it seems tiny. The Blog prefers NHL-sized rinks. More hitting, generally, and mistakes are magnified. Lose a battle in the corner and an opponent get to the net so much quicker than on big ice.
OK, that's enough for now. Time to go find a sandwich.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com