Hockey teams have a lot of packing to do
The stakes: a trip to Sochi next month. The selection process is intense. There's limited space, with plenty of qualified contenders.
Welcome to the battle inside a 2014 Olympian's suitcase.
In addition to pressures like trying to win medals and representing their country on the world stage, Team USA hockey players headed to Sochi face a small-scale dilemma: How -- and what -- do you pack for two of the biggest weeks in your life?
"Toiletries and underwear," is the advice Carolina Hurricanes defenseman and first-time Olympian Justin Faulk received from veteran Olympian and Sochi teammate Zach Parise.
The key, USA forward Monique Lamoureux says, is to leave the departure city with only absolute necessities. For her, that usually includes a green pillow that has accompanied her on every road trip since her sophomore year of high school.
Surprisingly, in a sport legendary for its players' superstitions, there's a dearth of superstitious items traveling to Sochi with Team USA. First-time Olympian and Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson says he can't play with his mind like that, a sentiment echoed by Team USA women's goaltender Brianne McLaughlin.
"It's just one more thing to get in your head," she said.
But that doesn't rule out quirky articles. McLaughlin expects her 31-year-old teammate Julie Chu's well-traveled, little stuffed elephant to make the trip. St. Louis Blues captain and USA forward David Backes, who's visited Russia before, says he's bringing food and toilet paper, and good-humoredly touts the advantage of Charmin double ply over the single-ply paper found in arena bathrooms.
And don't be surprised if McLaughlin also finds room for her crochet tools. She crochets on road trips, and the trend has caught on with five or six of her teammates.
"It was embarrassing when it was just me," McLaughlin said.
There's also space for the sentimental and the serious. McLaughlin has a necklace her father gave her, and Backes will bring a Bible. McLaughlin will also take a hockey shirt that belonged to a friend who passed away while she was in college.
There's also the call of whether to bring a traditional camera, or just a smartphone, to document the trip. McLaughlin remembers that in the 2010 opening ceremony, she ran out of pockets trying to juggle a flip phone, a video camera and a regular camera. This time, several players predict they'll rely on their phones for the majority of their pictures.
Backes says he's allowed only one checked bag for the trip to Sochi in addition to his hockey bag, so competition for space is going to be "fierce." He jokingly adds his wife holds veto power on what the couple ends up packing. Since his wife is a nurse, he says they'll likely end up bringing a medical kit to Sochi, too.
If history is any prophet, the players will prepare themselves far better to play in Sochi than to pack for Sochi. On the day of her interview with espnW, McLaughlin said she was leaving for a trip the next day.
"I haven't packed a thing," she said.
Faulk sees a similar situation for his trip to Russia.
"There's a very good chance I'll be packing the night before," Faulk said, blaming his last-minute technique on his slowness at doing laundry.
Carlson says he'll probably try to check the weather in preparation. North Dakota native Lamoureux already knows it could be around 50 degrees, which she considers shorts weather.
That proves a little too tough for Massachusetts-born Carlson.
"That's not quite [shorts weather] for me," he admitted.
If packing for Sochi is hard, packing for the return home is another challenge altogether. Faulk says one of his teammates in Carolina, who will be playing for Slovakia in the Olympics, is bringing an empty suitcase for all the items he'll acquire in Sochi. McLaughlin says a player could have returned home from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver lugging three extra suitcases of items.
Just make sure to save room for a medal.