Don’t get me wrong, I love England. It’s my home country and being able to play hockey professionally has allowed me to see so many unbelievable places, but my time in America has been something I’ll never forget.
Sure, I could have gone and seen the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty, or the slew of monuments in Washington D.C. For me, though, I had a set plan of sights to see. This included the Rocky Steps and Madison Square Garden.
In my journey with my trainer (Lee Elias of the Peterborough Phantoms), I have spent many hours training for the game I love. In between those times, though, I have been lucky enough to see the sights that I think make America great.
For those that don’t know, Eye of the Tiger, the hit title track of Rocky III, is a massive song for British hockey. In turn, this has made Rocky a phenomenon for not just British hockey but also the entire UK. To us, it’s more than just an American success story; it’s a success story.
Needless to say, when Lee told me we were going to visit Philadelphia, I knew where I wanted to go: the Rocky Steps.
It was an amazing sight. At the foot of the steps, which is located at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is the Rocky statue that is resurrected in the movies. When we arrived, there was a kid playing the Rocky theme on a trumpet, which really enhanced my experience and sent chills down my spine.
The steps were something really great to see up close.
After marveling at the steps for a bit (as well as the statue), Lee challenged me to run them. You can’t come to the steps and not live life like Rocky, right?
Of course when in the Land of Rocky, we had to get a Philly Cheesesteak. Since Lee is a Philly native, he chose the place and I asked him to order mine the same way he orders his. It was a gooey, delicious mess as Pat’s King of Steaks makes an amazing sandwich. I probably could have gone days without eating after tasting that unbelievable cheesesteak.
A Hockey Trip Through New York
Our day started with a trip to the xHockeyProducts Pro Shop in Floyd Hall Arena in Little Falls, N.J. My goal was to get some new shin guards and pants, but I ended up looking through gear for much longer than I anticipated. A pro shop of this magnitude is something new to me; sure, we have a nice store in my hometown called HockeyDog, but, unfortunately, they just don’t have what the XHP stores have.
Orlando and Dave, the two product experts who were working at the time, took me around the store and let me try everything on that I wanted to. The two workers had so much product knowledge that it really blew me away. No, I’m not getting paid to say this, it’s just something you really appreciate as someone who can’t frequent stores such as this.
First Glimpse of New York
From there, Lee and I took the bus into the city. We rode on a seat-cushioned bus, which is a little more luxurious than I am accustomed to. There’s a point where the highway bends and you catch your first glimpse of NYC; Lee wishes he would have taken a picture of my face. It was quite breathtaking. You think you get an idea of it when you watch movies, but nothing compares to actually seeing it for the first time.
We traveled under the Hudson River Tunnel and when we came out the other end, we were in the city. It was neck-aching, as I don’t think I’ve ever looked up that much in my entire life.
Times Square & the NHL Store
Again, you see this stuff in the movies and you think you have an idea of what to expect. You don’t. I was in awe over everything I was seeing. However, it is completely different from the movies; it wasn’t until Lee pointed out that we were actually in Times Square that I realised it.
After spending about 10 minutes just looking around, we walked to the NHL Store, located at the NHL headquarters. As I walked through the store, my wallet started to feel sore in my back pocket. There’s just so many things I wanted to buy, but I had to limit myself. As a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I desperately wanted to buy some 2017 Stanley Cup Champions merchandise, but they were all sold out! I guess there is a fair amount of Penguins fans in the New York area. I had to settle for an Eastern Conference Champs top and a Sidney Crosby shirt.
There was plenty of Vegas Golden Knights gear, but they have already become a rival of mine since they stole my flower, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the Penguins.
Madison Square Garden
The pinnacle of a hockey trip through New York is where the famous New York Rangers play — Madison Square Garden. After seeing 30 Rockefeller Center, Bryant Park and making the quintessential stop at a New York souvenir stand (where I purchased an NYPD shirt, among other things), we headed to a spot where I had been dreaming to see in person sometime during my life.
We saw the players’ entrance, where fans enter the rink and all the 1994 Cup-winning murals and pictures throughout the giant building. Just saying that I’ve been to Madison Square Garden now is something I will cherish the rest of my life.
Most people don’t know this in the U.S., but we were also sent home from school when 9/11 occurred. I was 4-years-old when it happened, so I can’t remember it too well, but I have seen the footage and photos, while learning about the event and the aftermath in school.
It hit me in a way I didn’t imagine it would. See the actual memory … it really took me aback. What was even more shocking was looking at the wall of names of folks who lost their lives that day. Strange enough, when Lee was explaining to me what the wall stood for, I happened to walk straight up to Ace Bailey’s name, a member of hockey lore that was lost on Sept. 11. Lee filled me in on Ace’s legacy, as I hadn’t learned of his accomplishments while in England. The first Stanley Cup Final I ever watched was of his L.A. Kings winning their first championship in 2012.
Game Simulation Training
On the next post, I will have plenty of video of me at the xChallenge at xHockey Performance in Scotch Plains, N.J., where I learned some interesting ways to train. But for now, I am happy to share a game simulation training course Lee put me through. It wasn’t easy, to say the least.
We used the xDeviator, SKLZ Quick Ladder and a standing defenseman adding some resistance in this drill. As Lee states in the video, this is about the length of an ice surface and it has to be completed in 45 seconds or less. I ran this drill three times in a row, which really builds your agility and endurance. It taught me that speed is an important facet of hockey, but completing these steps in the drill correctly (which needed focus) is just as vital. You can’t take the easy way in hockey, and this drill helps emphasise that.
I attended the xChallenge just a few days after we went to New York City, and this will be the focus of my next post. Meeting Bryce Salvador and Ben Shear was one of the highlights of my trip.
Continue to follow my blog as I will post regularly throughout my trip. If you have any questions that you would like answered, please contact me on any of my social media accounts or by email!
From Across the Pond
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