SOCHI, RUSSIA - As a long-time player in the NHL and then as a coach, Canadian women’s coach Kevin Dineen knows the importance of, well, getting away from the people you love at work, but, after a while together can annoy the crap out of you.
When he was working his way up the coaching ranks, he had a lot of success behind the Portland Pirates bench in the American Hockey League and his assistant coach was former NHL defenceman Eric Weinrich.
Long bus ride, the hotel, the rink, long bus ride, the rink, the hotel ...
“I told them Eric Weinrich and I were coaching together in Portland and we used to go through this little charade. After an eight-day road trip I’d tell him how tired I was of looking at him and talking to him and smelling him,” Dineen said Friday.
“We’d go through this whole thing and he’d come back and tell me, ‘you’re so gross.’ The next day it was, ‘hey, buddy, who are you doing?’ One day away from each other, I think, is really healthy especially when we have the kind of break we do,” said Dineen, who gave his team a complete day off Thursday after their tension-filled and wonderfully paced win over the U.S.
“Today was a good day for us, we spent some time together off the ice and (Saturday) it will be even better when we get on the ice. They like to play and when you keep them off the ice for a couple of days, they’ll be ready to roll.”
Canada is waiting to find out the identity of their opponent in the semifinals Monday.
After finishing first in Group A with a 3-0 record, Canada will play the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Switzerland and Russia. The U.S. will play the winner of Finland against Sweden.
The players have had a gruelling few months of high-intensity training and went through a change in coaches and captain, so a day off at this point did the players as much good mentally as it did physically.
“It was great to have a day off. It was a chance for us to sort of feel like Olympians. I had a chance to go watch our women speed skaters, the 1000 metres and a little bit of hockey,” said veteran forward Jenna Hefford. “It was just a nice day to get away from each other a bit and really experience the Olympics before we get back into our focus zone.
“Our competition runs so long compared to some other athletes, we don’t have a real chance to watch until we’re done. To have that day in the middle, you take advantage when you can. But you know your time is short to do that.”
Defenceman Catherine Ward slept in until 10 a.m., enjoyed the sparkling weather, had dinner with her family and then caught some of the Russia vs. Slovenia men’s hockey game.
“It helps mentally because we’ve had quite a long year and I think at this point there’s a few games left, but the most important ones are coming up. We need to refuel and that day off away from the rink really helped for sure,” said Ward.
Dineen organized a ball hockey competition Friday on a court near the Netherlands’ accommodations. Team Canada will be back on the ice Saturday and start preparations for Monday.
“With the format the way it is this year, we expected every game to be a good game. This tournament is different than Vancouver was. We’ve been challenged more than a few times and not only against the Americans. I think that is a great thing for the game,” said Hefford.
“Regardless of who we play, if we don’t bring our game, we may not have a chance to play for gold. It’s a good thing for the women’s game, I think. There’s going to be some good competition and maybe some surprises.”