FLAMES PACK FOR CHINA

Equip­ment staff deals with lo­gis­tics

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - KRIS­TEN AN­DER­SON kan­der­[email protected] twit­ter.com/KDotAn­der­son

Over the last few days, the Cal­gary Flames equip­ment staff has loaded nearly 7,000 pounds of lug­gage onto a plane bound for Shen­zhen, China.

Sticks. Skate sharp­en­ing equip­ment. Run­ning shoes. Nat­u­ral peanut but­ter. Ga­torade. Pucks. Hair gel. A pile of O.R.G. China Games-spe­cific ap­parel that needs to be vis­i­ble on play­ers, coaches and staff. Adapters to fit in Chi­nese power out­lets.

It’s enough to cause more than a few sleep­less nights for head equip­ment man­ager Mark DePasquale who, de­spite a re­sume that in­cludes World Cham­pi­onships in Den­mark, Rus­sia and Be­larus, has never pre­pared for a road trip quite like this one.

“The last two nights, I’ve wo­ken up at 4 a.m., anx­ious and won­der­ing what’s miss­ing,” he said. “We’ve had some is­sues with stuff that’s out of our con­trol, stuff that’s stuck at cus­toms. (We sent) ev­ery­thing early — our goalie gear is with the league. Our shoes got stuck at cus­toms for al­most 10 days.

“It’s lit­tle stuff you shouldn’t have to worry about but it all adds up.”

This, of course, has been tacked onto an al­ready busy NHL rookie train­ing camp at the Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome, plus aid­ing the vet­eran play­ers that have been in town for the last few weeks along with a num­ber of in­com­ing play­ers on pro­fes­sional try­out of­fers.

Then the Smash­ing Pump­kins were in town on Satur­day, giv­ing the equip­ment staff lim­ited ac­cess to their sec­ondary dress­ing rooms. Oh yeah, the Flames rook­ies also hosted the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers rook­ies at the Sad­dle­dome on Sun­day.

“I tell Ozzy (Flames as­sis­tant equip­ment man­ager Corey Os­mak) and Benny (dress­ing room at­ten­dant Ben Du­maine), ‘Han­dle it,’” DePasquale said. “That’s our word.”

Over 100 pieces of Flames lug­gage are ex­pected to be on the plane by Tues­day af­ter­noon, mean­ing more than 100 bag­gage tags were re­quired. The lug­gage has been weighed and mea­sured, nearly 2,000 more pounds than they’d nor­mally re­quire for a road trip.

The Cal­gary Po­lice Ser­vice dogs have al­ready checked ev­ery­thing out and, for the most part, they’re pre­pared for liftoff for what will be a 14-hour flight.

“We’re ready, but then you nev- er know what’s go­ing to hap­pen on the other side,” DePasquale said. “Even if you read some­thing, you can’t as­sume they know any English so ev­ery­thing is colour coded. They’re in con­tain­ers which you can’t con­trol. We’re at the mercy of (air­port se­cu­rity). It could take 45 min­utes. It could take four hours. It’s kind of an un­known.

“It’s been a lot.” DePasquale, Os­mak and Du­maine are des­per­ately try­ing to keep ev­ery­thing as seam­less and flaw­less as pos­si­ble so the Flames can con­cen­trate on im­ple­ment­ing their sys­tems with new head coach Bill Peters and the vet­eran-laden group of 26 play­ers. It’s a nine-day ex­cur­sion fea­tur­ing two games against the Boston Bru­ins and four prac­tices. The venues — the Shen­zhen Univer­si­ade Sports Cen­ter and the Cadil­lac Arena in Bei­jing — have been scouted al­ready.

In the­ory, a six-game road trip through the East coast is lo­gis­ti­cally more dif­fi­cult, hav­ing to pack and un­pack their gear for six games plus prac­tices.

But keep in mind, that’s in North Amer­ica.

“I got a note from the women’s team (CWHL Shen­zhen KRS Vanke Rays) and they were like, ‘Hey, our video coach is from Cal­gary and we love Johnny (Gau­dreau),’” DePasquale said. “I said, ‘What do you have that we can use?’ All they really said was to bring rain jack­ets be­cause it’s been rain­ing for two weeks.

“Their team is ba­si­cally our colours so we should look pretty good in their locker-room.”

Prepa­ra­tions have been on­go­ing since the idea was floated around in Jan­uary, and things were made eas­ier be­cause the Van­cou­ver Canucks and Los An­ge­les Kings went through a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence go­ing to China last year.

DePasquale has also been on the phone with Keith Robin­son, the Boston Bru­ins’ equip­ment man­ager, shar­ing tips, swap­ping ideas and fig­ur­ing out so­lu­tions.

The ex­cite­ment at the Sad­dle­dome has been pal­pa­ble over the week­end.

Even their de­par­ture plan has al­ready been well-laid out.

“Benny is go­ing to go to the air­port half­way through the game (on Sept. 15) to start load­ing all the ex­tra stuff — that’s a trick you learn from the other teams,” DePasquale said. “Be­cause we could be sit­ting on the plane for four hours be­fore we go to Bei­jing. It’s hard enough as it is so why make it harder?

“It should be rel­a­tively smooth but you never know. I just tell my guys, ‘We’re go­ing to have a lit­tle bit of pa­tience.’”

The­lasttwo nights, I’ve wo­ken up at 4 a.m., anx­ious and won­der­ing what’s miss­ing.

GAVIN YOUNG

The crew led by Cal­gary Flames equip­ment man­ager Mark DePasquale is en­trusted with the thank­less task of load­ing and un­load­ing some 7,000 pounds of lug­gage mak­ing the cross-Pa­cific flight for the Flames’ nine-day ex­cur­sion in China be­gin­ning Tues­day.

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