Aeros equipment manager and resident comedian Rick Bronwell continues his Aeros.com blog. Rick loves hearing from his fans...rather, Aeros fans...so e-mail him now!
The Blog is here. The myth. The legend. It continues here in Houston, Texas. 77010. We’ve even got our own unique URL that you can check out. Here we go. Greetings to everybody. It’s good to see you again.
Thursday is my favorite game of the year - the 11:05 a.m. start time for the Chronicle in Education Kids Day Game. I'm used to just listening to two kids scream at the top of their lungs, which warms me up for 6,000. It's not too late to get your tickets, you can call 1.866.GO.AEROS now, buy tickets online or come to the Toyota Center Box Office on Thursday morning. Oh, and I almost forgot. Just got done downloading a Josh Harding wallpaper for my computer. Jason Villanueva with the front office did a couple of great wallpapers for fans. Murphy's got one too. I hear more are going to be added in the coming days.
We’ll start with our road trip last week. We were in Worcester on Wednesday after our game on Tuesday at home. Wednesday was a pretty easy day, other than flying from Houston to Chicago, then Chicago to Hartford/Springfield, which is an hour away from Worcester. And we have a game that night, remember. We got into Hartford/Springfield, and the gear started coming off the belt. It isn’t like in Houston where we can drive out on the tarmac and unload the gear straight onto the truck.
I met the gear there, and it took me 10 minutes or so to find a skycap. They’re good when you’re going out, but they’re not around so much at baggage claim. I got our gear unloaded. Now, we had 51 pieces when we left. Worcester’s guys came to meet us at the airport, and as we’re loading the gear, I’m counting pieces and I only count 50. I wasn’t sure what we were missing, I knew we had extra stuff, the skate sharpener, the glove dryer. You can’t really keep track of all the player numbers in your head, but I knew we were missing one. Sure enough, as soon as I go talk to baggage claim about the lost luggage, out comes Danny Irmen’s hockey bag. And it seems to be torn to bits almost. It got caught somewhere, maybe in the mouth of a dog, or maybe it was stuck outside the plane hanging as we were flying. It was shredded pretty good, there were holes burnt into it and the strap was torn.
Here’s another story. As we’re driving to Worcester, we’re thinking it was an hour. We had one of those portable GPS units, which I’m going to purchase because I’m going to find out ways to get to Sugar Land quicker from my apartment, which is 5 minutes away. It just shows that I’m an equipment guy. We’re driving there, and the hour drive was more like an hour and 45 minutes. Almost two hours. I’d like to say thanks to Kevin, the assistant, in Worcester and Vinny their equipment manager (they’re both reading), they both helped us out a ton.
We start unloading the truck, and as I’m unloading, I see that Irmen’s skates – brand new Mission skates – got beat up pretty good. The sole was separated from the boot of the skate. So we had to fix that before the game. The leather was torn pretty good, too. It kind of irks you when a $350 or $400 pair of skates that get torn up. There wasn’t time to file a claim, so we’ve got to look at doing it later on. I fixed the skates during warmup, while they’re out there skating. That’s why every player has two pair of skates, both at home and road. You have a new pair, and a used pair just in case the new pair breaks down. He ends up playing the whole week in the old skates (and scored three goals). Today’s the first day he’s in the new skates again.
In the third period in Worcester, Ratchuk goes to walk out for the third period and he hears a click in his skate. His steel is busted. I’ve had people break plastic, the piece the steel goes into, but the steel is the part that touches the ice. The steel broke, but I’ve never seen anyone break steel like that, walking out to the ice. Usually you see it in the game. He went to his second pair of skates and finished the third period in those.
Other than that, Worcester was pretty smooth. I packed up and put it on Worcester’s truck, and they drove myself and the gear to Manchester and dropped us off the next day. That’s about an hour and 15 minuets. The team went up at noon on Thursday, we went up at 2 p.m., once Kevin got out of college. We stopped for a little Dunkin’ Donuts. I love Dunkin’ Donuts. Had a Vanilla Chai with a couple French Coolers. I know I should lay off that. But those coolers are so doggone good it’s unbelievable.
We unload Thursday afternoon, and pre-game skate Friday morning in Manchester. I changed Ratchuk’s steel, put the new steel on Ratchuk’s old skates so he can wear those. Actually, it’s old steel. The new steel is two inches wide, so we carry older steel that’s broken in a bit more. You usually replace the steel when it gets down to a half inch or so.
After the skate, the guys went back to the hotel, got their food and naps in, while I got the jerseys and socks out. The fans, too, so the gear can dry.
After the game in Manchester, the boys bus the two hours to Hartford. I hung the gear in a separate room, because Albany came in Friday afternoon for their game in Manchester on Saturday. They moved into our room, and we moved into an auxiliary room. I sharpened the skates that night, because Saturday there was a men’s game in Hartford so we couldn’t get in until later in the afternoon. UConn blew a big lead. The Huskies lost by 15.
I came in about 8:30 to the rink in Manchester. Albany was just showing up. Manchester had an optional skate, I didn’t see them around really. They have a little security gate, and it’s cold there remember. And all I wear is shorts, because I’m an idiot for one, and two, it makes me look good. Actually, first of all it makes me look good, secondly I’m an idiot. I go to the security door, it’s minus-two, and the windchill is freezing. I’m an idiot for having shorts on, but think I can just get in no problem. I think the lady thought it was funny I was wearing shorts or something, or she wasn’t in a very good mood to old Ricky B. It took me about five minutes to get into the building.
Then I go downstairs, and our room is locked. No one’s at the Manchester room. Albany’s change room, across from the locker room, I get down there and all the doors are locked. So I asked the security guard to open it up. It took about 15 or 20 minutes to get that done. I have no bags packed, and I want to make sure the bags are at the dock so we can throw them on the Hartford truck. Finally, the door gets unlocked, I pack the bags and load the gear.
The game…Wardo comes up to me at the beginning of the second period and he’s got a blown rivet. I have him take the skates off. It’s the same setup as at Toyota Center. Hartford’s locker room is straight behind their bench, and ours is in the corner. It’s a long walk in the catacombs of old Hartford Civic Center. The riveter, you usually have to go to home team’s room. So Wardo has a couple rivets blown, and I start running over, which is surprising for me. I got my workout in this weekend. I find out his actual plastic is broken on his skate. This is awesome. So I have their assistant Russ, get off their bench, and go tell Wardo to put on his extra pair of skates. I’m there fixing the skates, and Russ comes back and says Wardo’s skates aren’t sharpened, they are brand new. I have Russ continue to work on the current skate, and I go and sharpen Wardo’s new skates. Remind you, running, in “Rick Time”, it’s probably a two minute run. I was fast too. I was flying. I sharpened the skates, he plays the last 10 minutes of the second period in them. I go back to their room and finish the rivets, and he finishes the game in the old skates.
We played really well all weekend, too. Our fate should have been better than that it was.
So I’ve got to talk about the studio session.
The All-Star Break was a great time. Monday, Ben Thomson and I, or "Hold the Mayo" as we call ourselves, we got our CD recorded. I think we got three or four songs down. They videotaped the whole thing. All the thanks go out to Gabe Presas in the front office for setting it up, and to Mr. Irving and a bunch of the students, especially Amy, out at Hightower High School. It’s going to be really, really solid. Solid for what we have to offer, anyways. I’m not sure when the release date will be, stay tuned to Aeros.com. Gabe is editing it and going to make it special. They'll be selling it at games, and I hear rumors of some big release party. We'll sign autographs, dont' worry!
One song I’m not sure we’re going to use. It was a pretty clean song, but Courtney with Charities thought we were trying to pull a quick one over on her. Which we totally weren’t.
I couldn’t have had a better time making the CD. I think there might be a Volume 2 in the works for the end of the year. We’re already working on a song for Bucee’s. Bucee’s is the stuff, ask Donny, ask Stanzel. Go to Bucee’s, you’ll definitely like it. the bathrooms are so clean. I ate off the floors once, it was fine. It tasted a bit like bleach, but not too bad. Bleach is a good source of protein.
Back to the CD. I think they’re going to sell them at games. It may be on America’s Top 40. MTV is looking at the video. Cribs is coming out to look at my Ford Focus ZX3. Black. It has manual windows. It’s so good. It does have a CD player with an anti-theft device. It’s a factory stereo, but has anti-theft, in case anyone wants to steal a Focus stereo, don’t do mine because it’s secure!
Thanks to Kevin and Vinny in Worcester, Fish and Jason in Hartford and also Chris and Mike in Manchester for all their help last week. They did far above and beyond what they had to do to make us happy. We appreciate that. We’ll reciprocate it if they’re reading it, and we know they are.
Q: Good Morning Blog Man and his trusty sidekick Bucee Boy! Here is your mission for today. If you choose to accept it you’ll make one extremely clueless individual very happy! If not, well, I’ll figure that out later. I’m one of those “girl” things who wants to play hockey. I am utterly clueless when it comes to all the equipment. Is there a trick to wearing in a pair of gloves? How should a pair of gloves fit your hand? Being a girl I have much smaller hands. All the gloves seem to be quite cavernous and difficult to handle. Any tip and tricks will be appreciated. I am going to try and make it to your Seminar on the 17th. Thank you! - Heidi
A: Heidi - The trick is, if you get some tape from a pro shop like Sugar Land or Willowbrook, get a thing of clear tape. You can bend the fingers back and tape them as tight as you can to the back. A lot of our guys do that. It stretches out the leather in the palm so it’s a little bit loose on you. Kind of like what you do to a new baseball glove.
How they fit in your hand…They go by sizes, usually the smallest size you can buy is 11 inch. I’d say look for 11 inch, possibly a 10 if they have it. The fingers are shorter in those, a lot tighter on the inside. They usually put extra padding on the inside too, a soft felt layer.
Another thing to break in pairs of gloves is to soak them. Run hot water in your bathtub and soak them. Dip them until they get soaking wet, and just wear them around a bit and ring the water out. Usually that’ll help break them in. Our guys go through so many. Nowadays they make them easier to break in, too.
Heidi I’d also like to thank you for stepping up as a Blog reader and buying those 50 tickets to the Kids Game to be donated to a Title 1 school. We’ll contact you to set up your tour of the locker room!
Q: With all the players going up to Minnesota and then sometimes back to you in Houston, how is the staff in Minnesota for you to deal with? Thanks, Lance in Dallas
A: Hi Lance in “Dallas”. The staff is awesome up there. I love that Lance, the visiting team guy, he’s unbelievable. He’s funny, easy to get along with, we share hugs a lot. He wishes he had his own blog, though. Also Matt Benz is their assistant, he does mostly truck runs and the laundry. He’s a great guy to work with. Brent is unbelievable at what he does and Tony’s really good, too. We work really closely with the common ownership. It’s nice that when I need something, I call them, and vice versa. It’s just a matter of UPS getting it there. We’ve had a lot of players up and down this year. It could be a lot harder if we didn’t have those guys up there to work with.
Q: Hi my name is Nancy and I’m from Mexico. I love the Houston Aeros, especially Roman Voloshenko. My question is, how many Aeros like the Mexican food and how?
A: Well, I like Mexican food. The guys like the Mexican food, but they are mostly into pasta, steak and chicken. They may get chicken enchiladas or quesadillas. All I know is, there are a lot of Mexican restaurants around here, there is so much good Mexican, is scary. We like Gringo’s, it’s down by the practice rink where lot of guys live. It’s definitely a great place to eat. If they’re reading, and who doesn’t, I’m open to gift certificates.
Q: I know that some of the players have rituals they do before a game as a good luck charm, do you do anything before a game to try and give good Karma to the guys to help them win?
A: Rituals are a part of every sport I think. When I played football in high school, I always put my right shoe on first, followed by the left shoe. If I played well, I’d use the same socks the next day. It doesn’t go that far with these guys. Everything’s laundered every day. But there are rituals guys do. A lot of guys put on their left side first, then they’ll put on the right side. If a guy comes off the ice and is superstitious and his right skate is blown, he’ll take both off. I’ll sharpen his right, and he’ll put it on first. It kills a bit of time, but some guys are really, really superstitious. I’ve had guys have troll dolls, those things get really rank after two or three road trips. For the most part, it’s the little things they keep to themselves in their head. They’ll tape up a new stick 10 minutes after they get there, and the rest 30 minutes before warm-ups. Some guys get there at different times. You have to be there two hours before, but some guys show up at 4:15, some at 4:30. Guys feel they have to get into the mindset to play the game that night.
Q: I do enjoy the personification you put into your blog, you provide interesting facts, but at the same time humanize it. Thanks. I'm a sports fan, if money were no object I'd own a few sports teams and travel with them all the time. But I gotta’ ask. It seems in hockey there is constant upheaval at sending guys up, or sending them back down. I know you've mentioned before the guys take it hard, its not easy to live out of a suitcase in a different city not knowing when you'll be sent back. As equipment guru, how do you all deal with the constant flowing of people? I know that can't be easy on your part of the organization either. Since we have the different jerseys at what point is the decision made that we need to order John Smith of ECHL or CHL an Aeros Jersey because he's being pulled up? Anyways, I'm rambling at this point. Again thanks. BTW...when are the Aeros gonna’ do a Girls Night Out. There ARE ladies that like the sport too. – Bambi
A: Great question Bambi. I am a guru, I appreciate you saying that to me. Not a lot of people understand that. Actually, I didn’t even realize what a guru was, until Stanzel showed me the link. Check out that link by the way. How we deal with the jerseys and the call-ups… We have a lettering kit we get graciously from our lettering guy in Los Angeles. This past week in Hartford, we had a call-up goalie because Dieter got hurt in Manchester. We had Jared Waimon, a men’s league goalie come up. So as we’re driving in the truck to Hartford, I got a call from Matt Shaw and Stanzel. Stanzel will usually call me and find out what number the guy will wear for game notes. Usually I’ll sew the name plate from scratch. I had to have Stanzel text me the spelling – Waimon. I took his nameplate off and gave it to him after the game. I’ll never need it again – hopefully. It takes about half an hour to get it sewn and on the jersey.
In training camp, I order nameplates for every guy in camp, so we already have those in hand. But if we get a guy we don’t have the nameplate for, I’ll just sew it up before the game.
Q/A: We had a question from Joel which we won’t bore you with. But let me acknowledge it. Thank you very much, I appreciate the email, and I’ll get you when I see you next time.
Q: Hey Rick. Just wanted to let you know how much our family greatly appreciated your willingness to keep the little fans happy here in Iowa. It seems like most equipment managers don't go out of their way to give kids sticks or pucks anymore. That's how I became hooked on hockey more than 40 years ago. Anyways, it’s good to see your team turn 180 as the beginning really stunk. We’re glad to see Josh move up again (man, he is killin’ us here) Best wishes to all the team for the remainder of the year. Thanks - Tim, Row B at Wells Fargo
A: Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate them. It means a lot to have someone see what I do and understand that we try to give to the kids as much as we can, because it’s the little guys that keep us going.
That’s it. Questions, comments, keep them coming. We’ll answer them within reason. I look forward to seeing you guys at the Chronicle in Education Kids Game on Thursday. We have both teams flying out after the game, since we play Milwaukee again there on Friday.
We had to rent an extra truck. Kevin Scarber will bring them to Continental, we’ll go to United, fly up there to play the game on Friday and fly right back. It’s nice in February, we’re home most of the month. That’s nice with March looming in the distance.
Look for that CD, it’s going to be rocking. I’ve got my hand ready for autographs.
Heather and the family are doing well. We went to Moody Gardens on Wednesday. I’d never seen IMAX before. The best movie I’ve ever seen was the Deep Sea, fish one. It was so fun seeing a three-year-old trying to pick scallops out of the air. SpongeBob was worth the money too. It smells like pickles. If you don’t know what I mean, go see it and you will.
Peace out, Bronwell out, Aeros out. I love you guys. Thank you for reading.