The NHL Combine is currently underway this week, as many of the top prospects attempt to showcase their skills in an effort to show why they should be amongst the top players selected at the 2014 NHL Draft.
During the five day event, the potential NHLers are not only tested for their fitness levels, but also for their personalities, as each club can choose to talk to players to interview them to see if they can gain insight into the mental make up of the young men.
While this is all well and good for most teams, playing in Vancouver can be a bit of a different beast from playing somewhere like, say, Florida. In Vancouver, the players often have to hold off droves of fans as they enter Rogers Arena. In Florida, players are more likely going to have to show their ID to the security guard and gently explain what the sport of hockey is before they are allowed in.
This is why I propose a special combine be created specifically for players being tested by Vancouver. Sure, they can pass normal interview and fitness tests, but can they pass Vancouver specific tests?
Test 1: Signing autographs in the rain
Vancouver tends to rain eight months out of the year (seven months if it's a good year), which often times leaves players signing cards and jerseys in the rain. You might not think this is a big deal, but look at what it did to poor Wayne Gretzky. All he had to do was hold a torch for an hour in Vancouver during the Olympics, before the rain apparently shattered his soul and ruined any chance of him feeling happiness ever again. Look at that picture of the Great One. There is no happiness there. Just a man waiting for the cruel world to end.
The idea is to put the players out in the rain for three hours at a time over three days and see how many of them break and end up looking like Gretz. Those who make the cut, can stay on the potential draft list.
Test 2: Dodging bikes, joggers and dogs along the seawall
If a player ends up playing in Vancouver, he will most likely find himself running along the Seawall at some point in time. I'm almost positive there is a legal clause that states if you don't run the Seawall at least once in your first year in Vancouver, you're kicked out of the city.
Therefore the test for this one is simple. Get the players to run the Seawall without bumping into a leash, dog, angry jogger, or bicyclist. For bonus points, get them to run in the bike path and see how they handle an irate cyclist. If they can handle an angry Vancouver cyclist, they should be able to handle Zdeno Chara in the corners no problem.
Test 3: Changing lanes on the Lions Gate Bridge
Sometimes in hockey you have to deal with a lot of stress. The same can be said about driving in Vancouver. The best way to test a player's ability to deal with stress both on and off the ice, should be the Lions Gate Challenge.
Simply have the player drive over the bridge and back, in full rush hour, with the yellow lights switching the two lanes to go against the player each time. If a player can handle sitting in traffic for an hour just to get on the bridge, only to see their two lanes reduced to one, he should be able to handle the pressure of the playoffs in Vancouver. Blowing a 3-0 lead in the playoffs pales in comparison to the anger the Lions Gate lane switch can cause.
If they can't handle the challenge, well, it will at least be fun to watch the player angrily punching their steering wheel for thirty straight minutes.
Test 4: Vancouver "Summer" Challenge
Instead of putting the player through the regular fitness challenge, the Canucks should have the players compete in the Vancouver "Summer" Challenge. What is the challenge you ask? Simple: pretend it's summer, even when it's clearly not.
It's a time honored tradition in Vancouver to bust out shorts and t-shirts in the middle of cold weather when even the slightest hint of the sun shines through. Therefore the players will be asked to wear shorts, no shirt, sandals, and go to Kits Beach and throw a Frisbee around. The object is to see who lasts the longest before getting really cold and heading home. The players who last longest will have showcased the mental fortitude it takes to last an entire NHL season in Vancouver without breaking physically and mentally.
Bonus points will of course be awarded to any player who wears sunglasses when it's cloudy out, and double bonus points for being one of those guys who walks across the rope tied between two trees.
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