Remme On The Road Blog
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Editor’s Note: Welcome to the first 2013-14 edition of Remme on the Road, a blog dedicated to (hopefully) giving you a little inside look at what it’s like to travel with the Timberwolves. I’ll update this blog throughout our trip this weekend to Montreal—the Wolves will be in Quebec for their 2013 NBA Canada Series preseason matchup with the Boston Celtics. I’m writing this intro as we’re getting set to take off at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and the plan is to have my final post happen when we arrive back in the Twin Cities on Sunday night. On you rend, just sit back and enjoy the ride.
The Wolves practiced earlier at the Lifetime Fitness Training Center and wrapped up their work a little early at about 1 p.m. It is getaway day, meaning the players head directly from the arena, gather up what they need and head straight to the airport for departure. We did the same. After covering practice, we wrote up the Timberwolves.com Practice Report at our Target Center office, posted it on the web at the airport and boarded the plane.
This is a unique experience for most of us on the plane, myself included. I asked quite a few players this week if they’ve been to Montreal before or if they speak French. Aside from Turiaf and Dieng knowing the language, I don’t think anyone on this plane is going to be able to ask for directions en francais during this trip, and none of the players I talked to have been to Montreal. Just to recap, coach Rick Adelman said his French is “not good.” Robbie Hummel said his is “nonexistent.” J.J. Barea deferred. Kevin Love said his is “not very good at all.” So we’ve got that.
As a side note, I went to Paris this summer on vacation and tried to put my four college pass/fail semesters of French to good use. Every time I went to a coffee shop or food stand to get food, I tried using my embarrassingly awful French to start the conversation, and the workers quickly switched to English so I didn’t embarrass myself further. I’ll try my luck at speaking some French this week, but I will likely use the phrase, “Parlez-vous anglais,” more than anything.
[CLICK HERE for Remme's behind-the-scenes phone gallery from the Montreal trip]
Our flight arrived in Montreal about 6:30 p.m., and after going through customs on the plane (a major perk of the non-commercial international flight experience) we loaded the bus and made our way toward downtown. We arrived at the hotel about 7:20 p.m., unloaded the bus, got our keys as we walked in the door and brought our bags to our rooms. This is where everyone goes their separate ways—they can relax, go grab some food or see the town. A small group of us, including staffers from the team’s public relations, stats and game ops department, went to the Canadiens’ game against the Nashville Predators.
We picked our tickets up at Will Call and headed to the 200 level, we enjoyed an excellent view from behind the goal and sampled some of the Bell Centre’s best fare. Montreal is known for its smoked meat sandwiches. Now, I don’t know how the Bell Centre’s smoked meet sandwiches stack up against other areas of the city, but I have no basis for comparison and it was phenomenal. Highly recommended.
We had a chance to take in Saint Catherine Street after the game before turning in. A big day awaited us on Sunday with the NBA Canada Series set to take place.
The Wolves’ training staff gets to work early on game day, even if they don’t have shootaround. Sunday was one of those days, as Minnesota didn’t shootaround at the arena but the staff was getting things set up by mid-morning. Lots of preparations go into transforming any locker room on the road or at home into gameday use, so whether or not the players are there it’s work time for the staff. I arrived at the arena for Celtics shootaround and got my first look inside the inner hallways of Bell Centre. I walked in and immediately noticed how cool the Canadiens locker room area is. They’ve got miniature Stanley Cups (24 of them, to be exact) in a glass case right outside the locker room, and their entry way has two stainless steel sliding doors with a big Habs logo on the front that open up when the players walk through—kind of like doors at a grocery story.
On a side note, the Habs’ locker room is fantastic. It has the names and faces of all their Hall of Famers lining the walls, and on each side they have a phrase that sums up their tradition—one in French and another in English. It reads: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high.” I looked it up, and it’s a passage from the poem titled “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae written in 1915—the year the Canadiens won their first Stanley Cup. It sums up the type of history this franchise has. Like the Yankees in baseball or the Celtics and Lakers in basketball, the Canadiens are that team in the NHL. “You look and you see all the Hall of Famers that have come through here,” Love said. “It’s a pretty special place. We know we’re kind of on sacred ground and sacred territory.”
Another side note, we stood in the locker room and talked a little hockey with Corey Brewer and Jerry Zgoda prior to the game during pregame availability. Jerry covered the North Stars in the 1980s and has stories about coming to Montreal for games at the old Montreal Forum. It’s fun hearing stories about Original Six buildings with so much history—the Chicago Stadium was another one, home to both the Blackhawks and Bulls. That’s an era that won’t be replicated. We talked with Brewer about the Canadiens logo in the center of the locker room on the floor. On Sunday it had a piece of maroon carpet laying over it. That’s because it is tradition to not touch the logo or walk on it. Brewer digs that history.
During Celtics shootaround, we talked to new Boston coach Brad Stevens about transitioning to the NBA from college—he made his name with Butler and those NCAA championship game runs. It’s a young team with a new look and a fresh coach, and on top of that they’re coming off a celebrated era of Cs basketball led by Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Now, new faces like rookie Kelly Olynyk are emerging. It’s a work in progress. I talked with Kammron Taylor a bit—the former Wolves Summer League guard and Minneapolis North alum who played four years at Wisconsin. He’s getting his shot earn a spot on an NBA roster this preseason. Immediately after shootaround, the game ops crew along with the Wolves Dancers spent some additional time getting thing set up for the in-game entertainment for the night. THey spent the majority of the afternoon choreographing the event and getting set for all the skits, dances and festivities.
We spent about an hour at shootaround from 10 to 11 a.m., then I headed back to the hotel to file the Shootaround Access story, upload photos for the Montreal phone gallery and get started on the pregame blog. When that was done, I went back to the arena around 3:30 p.m. to get situated in the media room before pregame coaching availability. Stevens talked about containing the Wolves and his respect for Rick Adelman during his 4:15 media session. Adelman followed at about 4:45. In between, I did a quick phone interview with Steve Thomson on WCCO radio checking in with the sights and sounds of Montreal.
After wrapping up pregame blog posts, we headed out to the arena to get set for tipoff. My favorite part about playing in Canada is the dual national anthems. They always do a fantastic job with it. And in Montreal, the other thing I tend to enjoy is how they do all the announcing in both French and English. During the Canadiens game, they did quite a few American pop culture songs in French, too. It just adds a cool dynamic that showcases Quebec’s proud history while also providing something we don’t normally get to experience. It added to the weekend’s charm.
The arena was packed for the anthems and remained that way for the duration of the game. At tipoff, the crowd was engaged and electric. That lasted until the final buzzer. I was really impressed with the 20,152 on hand. They thoroughly enjoyed the game, and I’ve had a lot of interaction on Twitter with people from Montreal who expressed how much they enjoy the NBA or want to have a team in town.
In-game, the best moment happened to be when the crowd gave a loud, standing ovation to honor Celtics great Robert Parish. Parish was courtside during the game, and the fans were excited to see a staple of the Cs’ 1980s success in the crowd. Montreal is only about a five-hour drive from Boston, so there were definitely Celtics fans wearing green in attendance. Being able to pay tribute to The Chief was a nice added bonus of the evening.
In postgame, we rolled back to the locker room and spent a little more time talking with Rick Adelman, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio about the win. Rubio, at the time of the victory, was only a few hours away from his 23rd birthday. “Yeah, I’m getting old,” Rubio said. “Twenty-three.” No word on how he planned to spend his birthday (he said, “We’ll see”), but one thing he did not have to worry about was practice. The Wolves announced they would not hold their regular workout on Monday.
Once the postgame locker room was cleared out, the players headed over to a brief meet-and-greet event in Montreal. After that, we went down to the loading dock and loaded the bus for the airport. We rolled out with two buses—one for the players and another for the additional staff who came with on the trip. We had a police escort to the airport, which was kind of cool, and we headed into the airport to go through customs. We arrived about five minutes before the Celtics, so we ended up standing in line with Boston in an area closed off to the general public. Once we went through, we boarded our flight to MSP while the Celtics headed to the gate next to us and headed back to Logan.
On the plane, the Wolves players sit up in the front together. They chill, chat or play cards together. The middle section is where the coaches sit, and the back is where the remainder of the staff and team guests. The best part about the team plane is the hospitality. The entire plane is first class seating. They have three different types of entrees ready the players, staff and guests on the flight, and they follow that up by offering ice cream and then milk and cookies. They travel in style on this plane. I know I impress easily, but this is always extremely impressive.
We arrived back at MSP around midnight or a little after. After grabbing our bags, we all headed home in different directions. Another part of NBA life that isn’t always documented is the late night travel. These guys get into almost every city late at night, need to regroup and be ready to perform against the best basketball players in the world the very next day. It can sometimes be taxing, I’d assume.
That does it for this first edition of Remme on the Road. Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. I’ll put together a few more of these periodically throughout the season when we go on cool trips across the country. I always find it fun to see how things work behind the curtains at professional sporting events. I hope you’ve found this entertaining, too. As always, thanks for reading and see you next time.