November 11, 2011
Jets go wild with wordsFind bonding in unlikely places on the road
By PAUL FREISEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - The next time a member of the Winnipeg Jets talks about minding their P’s and Q’s, don’t just assume he’s using a figure of speech.
He might not even be talking about hockey.
It turns out these Jets have an interesting pastime on the road, something I learned Thursday while questioning players about their recent 14-day road trip.
I wanted to find out what they did for fun, away from the rink.
They say off-ice shenanigans can be as important as on-ice systems when it comes to turning a collection of 20-odd players into a team. This team needed plenty of bonding, judging by their ragged play before they hit the road.
Rugged forward Chris Thorburn, sporting a new shiner under one eye, was ready to shine some light on the subject.
“We got into some stuff that you wouldn’t believe,” Thorburn said, drawing immediate visions of rowdiness and debauchery, perhaps in the Big Apple. Or maybe waterfront partying in Miami.
“Scrabble games,” Thorborn said.
“On the iPad or iPhone,” he continued. “You can stay in your room and just go back and forth. Guys have fun with that.”
That sounded a little complicated for somebody technically impaired and in his forties.
“So am I,” Thorburn said. “But I had to join, just to hang out.”
Of course. Peer pressure.
So a good, clean-living 28-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., out on the road with the boys, was forced into games of hotel Scrabble.
Oh, there was some other fun to be had. Like a subway ride to the trendy Soho neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan, between weekend games in New Jersey and New York City, complete with some sneakiness from Kyle Wellwood.
“Wellwood let Maxwell and McArdle hop on the wrong train, knowing the whole time,” defenceman Brett Festerling revealed. “He kind of smiled as the doors closed. But they figured their way back.”
“That’s typical Wellwood,” Tanner Glass chipped in. “A little smirk, and let ’em get on the bus.”
There was some Halloween hijinks, too, Glass going as Katy Perry, Kenndal McArdle as MC Hammer.
And you can’t usher in the month of Mo-vember without starting a moustache growing contest.
“Best moustache, Kenndal McCardle,” Glass offered. “His face just holds it really well. He looks great.”
“The guys who know they have bad ones are just keeping them off,” Glass said, just out of earshot of 20-year-old Alex Burmistrov and his clean-shaven upper lip.
But it sounds like the off-ice highlight of the Mother of All Road Trips was trying to land Double Letter and Triple Word Scores.
And good luck if you joined the trip late.
“My Scrabble’s gettin’ better,” Festerling, a callup from St. John’s, said. “I could tell the boys had been playin’ a lot on the road trip.”
Word is the king of the game is goalie Chris Mason.
“He traps you,” defenceman Mark Stuart challenged. “He’s like a Tampa Bay Scrabble player.”
If you hadn’t seen highlights of the Lightning/Flyers game the night before, you might have drawn a blank on that comment.
Mason wasn’t going to let that go without a few words of his own.
“These guys think puttin’ a big word in, with six letters out there, is the way to play Scrabble,” the Jets elder statesman explained. “And they’re all one point. Instead of connecting the words and making the combinations and scoring points. I play to win. I don’t play to make a big word.”
What all this fun and games eventually spells out for the Jets remains to be seen.
“It’s tough to put your finger on it right now,” Glass said. “You got to know your teammates a little bit. That’s always important when you’ve got a young team with some new faces, like we have this year.
“It’ll be measured here in the coming weeks, how good the trip was for us.”
Measured in how many W’s and L’s the Jets rack up.
And that’s all about hockey.