Andrew Gordon: One Win Away.

gordos-take5

Alexandre Giroux’s overtime goal has put the Hershey Bears ahead (3-2) of the Stars for the first time in the Calder Cup Finals series.  From his seat on the Bears charter jet, right wing Andrew Gordon sets the stage for the series’ completion in Hershey.  He discusses the vibe in the dressing room, disparities in travel between the NHL and AHL, and predicts some excellent hockey to come.

We finally arrive to the point in the season that we have been waiting for all along. After taking tonight’s game in Texas, we return home with a 3-2 series lead, and more importantly, a chance at the championship. They say the fourth win in a series is always the hardest one to get, but considering the battles we have just fought in games four and five, I don’t see how it could get much tougher. Both teams seem evenly matched through five games. One favorable bounce here or a tough call there has made all the difference, but a win is a win, and we have found a way to win three games in their building. Our confidence is high.

Sometimes you can feel the vibe in the dressing room. When things are going poorly,  a bad goal or a big save against your players can make the team’s attitude spiral down. Frustration sets in, and it spreads around so fast that– before you know it–  everybody is squeezing their sticks. Every play that doesn’t result in a goal seems to make things worse.

Today we experienced the complete opposite effect. After allowing the first goal of the game (another unfortunate bounce off of poor Karl Alzner’s face), we remained calm and composed. It was as if the goal had never even happened. To me, this is a sign that we were ready for battle. Playoff games are often won in the third period or later, so allowing a goal in the first didn’t intimidate us. We have come from behind in every game we’ve won in this series, as well as many times in prior series, so it did not seem insurmountable. Getting a lead and losing it can sometimes be worse than never having a lead at all. Knowing your opponent has the ability to come back on you deflates a team and makes a future one- or two-goal lead feel a little more nerve-racking. You never feel safe or in control even when ahead. This is the psychological warfare waged between teams over a seven-game span. You remember things from previous games, and that’s why we now have the mental edge.

As I write this entry, I’m about a half hour into our flight back to Harrisburg, and I’m thinking about how much better this charter flight is compared to the long day of travel the fellas from Texas have to go through tomorrow. I was told that due to the limited availability of flights, the Stars players have to split up into three groups and travel separately arriving tomorrow anytime between 10pm and 3am. By the time they land, I will have had an 8-hour rest in my own bed, eaten three home-cooked meals, put the finishing touches on packing up my apartment, and will be getting ready to have yet another 8+ hour sleep. This is one of the luxuries of playing in Hershey. During the regular season we spend a lot of time on the bus (most of our games are between 3-6 hours away), but in the playoffs, the team spares no expense to put us in a position to win. This series has felt like being an NHL player. Flying on a private plane, staying in a beautiful hotel, and eating great food are part of the experience in the finals. It really gives you something to look forward to while coming down the stretch of the regular season. Being treated like an NHL player is the carrot the organization dangles in front of us, and it works. Four trips to the finals in the last five years isn’t too bad, eh?

Gordo warming up with the Caps where he played two games earlier this year.

Andrew Gordon: "It’s the price we all pay to follow our dream."

Minor-league travel is a funny thing. None of it is glamorous, but the team cannot splurge to take care of the players because of the schedule. For the majority of the season, we practice Tuesday-Thursday, and then play three games in three nights over the weekend. When we have time off, it’s not an extra day in the bright lights of New York City. Instead we get 12 hours between bus rides from Springfield to Lowell, Mass., with a game in between. That’s life in the minors though. It’s the price we all pay to follow our dream. We ride that bus because we aspire to make it in the NHL full-time one day, where the only bus we will see is to and from the tarmac. I remember after my brief recall to Washington this year, I played a game in Toronto, then Ottawa, Ontario, before returning to Washington to pack my bags and drive to Hershey. On the flight home after the game in Ottawa, I remember thinking, “36 hours ago I was eating stale pizza on a bus from Binghamton, now I’m being served steak and fresh sushi on a flight to the nation’s capital?” What a difference a day makes! Even though in Hershey we have an incredible bus (big cushy seats, wireless internet, and satellite TV), nothing tops the flights we have taken these last couple days. No matter what you do for a living, it’s nice to be rewarded for your hard work.

Looking forward to game six, I predict we play our best game of the series. Despite losing the first two games at home, I feel like we are playing like a different team now. We are more patient, but we have lost none of our tenacity. This game has to be played like an elimination game. We have learned from our mistakes in the first two games and with our crowd behind us it’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere. I heard the Giant Center sold out in only five hours, and I’m sure it would have happened even sooner if the people in box office could pump tickets out faster! We are all looking forward to the opportunity to win the AHL Championship in front of our family and friends.

I spoke earlier about how these chances to hoist a trophy don’t come around very often, so winning one on the road, and possibly one at home in my first three years of pro hockey would really be a great start to my career. I almost feel bad for guys like Bouchard and Perrault who have known nothing but winning since they arrived on the pro scene. From here on out any season that doesn’t end in a championship will feel like a complete failure. But when I think about it, any season that doesn’t end in a championship is a complete failure. Either way, we have one win left before the season is completed the way we set out to do it all those months ago. We are a Championship team; we just have to finish the job.

“We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt” – Unknown

Thank you for your time. See you back in Hershey!

Yours in hockey,
Andrew Gordon

  • HersheyIsHockey

    Love reading these bro. very inspiring words. you guys proved what your made of down in texas. just one more step to the top. so go out there and take it! me and the 7th man will be there cheering you boys on! see ya monday night!

  • BearsBelieve

    Thanks for taking the time to write these posts – I look forward to reading them after each game. Your fans appreciate the inside look. And I’m so proud of what you guys did in Texas. It was some great hockey to watch, and you all proved your worth to anyone who didn’t know it already. But like you said, it’s about finishing this and proving that the Bears are the champions!
    Since the playoffs started, I’ve been wearing a plastic wristband that says, “Bears Believe,” so I thought I’d leave you with a quote that I like that about believing. ”
    “When you believe something can be done – really believe – your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to a solution.”
    GO BEARS!!!!!

  • http://www.irockthered.net/ IRockTheRed

    Thanks again for another great post! :-) Looking forward to Monday night’s game!

  • http://facebook Roberta

    Gordo you have been a great inspiration on the ice and on this screen. You are level headed and write with great maturity for such a young man. Experience in life teaches us many things and apparently your upbringing keeps you humble,.
    Go Bears-
    We are season ticket holders – no lines for us – just want to see you guys win game 6.

  • Brendan

    You’re a great writer! Hopefully you can keep this up when you come to Washington

  • Jim

    For an armchair fan (except for pick-up street hockey and playing with my son), these posts really offer insights into the pro experience–thanks! Go Bears/Caps!

  • Maria

    Thanks for the look into the life of AHL and NHL players…as well as for your win! Love you, Bears!

  • BobbyG

    Way to go Bears! Good luck completing an inspiring comeback.

    One word of advice: don’t make the same mistake your parent club Capitals did and assume you’ve got this series won. Continue to play your game AND respect your opponent because you know they will play desperate hockey next game. Get this thing done, and show the Caps what a championship team is made of and has to do to achieve glory.

  • Dee

    Way to go Bears! What an great win Game 5 was. My dad used this quote to inspire myself and siblings when we were young: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This team has showed it is tough by perserving and giving their all for the team in the great comeback from the first 2 games of this series. I’ll be there tonight cheering you on! LET’S GO BEARS! Woooooooooooooooooo!
    Thanks again Gordo for sharing your thoughts!

  • Pat

    Andrew, your blog entries are inspiring! I read these aloud to my 8 year old son – as he begins his ice hockey days as a mite – more importantly to let him know that following his dream requires hard work and commitment on his part. Looking forward to reading your blog during the summer months. Congratulations on winning the Calder Cup – hope you enjoyed the party glasses! :)