Sunday, January 16, 2011

José Helped Former Teammate Kick Some of His "Eccentricities"

While on Twitter sometimes I do a "José Theodore" search to see who has mentioned him and in what capacity. A couple nights ago I ran across an article that appeared in The Vancouver Sun about the Capitals' Karl Alzner and how he has stopped his rituals that bordered on OCD behaviors. And the article mentioned that José was the one who helped him with that.

Thanks to loyal reader, miseenjeu, for bringing it to my attention in case I'd missed it. I appreciate all of my readers who send me José tidbits. I try to catch a lot of stuff out there, but I do miss some, so feel free to send me anything! ;o)

Here's the article:
Capitals' Karl Alzner replaces eccentricity with solid play
By Ian Walker, Vancouver Sun January 13, 2011
There’s a fine line between superstition and obsessive compulsive disorder. And for a long while, Washington Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner had a foot firmly planted on both sides of the border.

Alzner used to tap his stick on the bench 88 times during the singing of the national anthem as a junior with the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. That’s a tap for almost every second of O Canada. And as recently as a couple of years ago, the 22-year-old would have to throw a ball of tape against the wall in the dressing room in the lead-up to games. If he didn’t catch it in a certain way … aw, heck, let him tell you.

“If my reaction wasn’t just right I’d think my reaction on the ice was going to be bad, no joke,” said Alzner, who along with defensive partner John Carlson likely will be responsible for shutting down the Vancouver Canucks’ top line during Friday’s NHL game at the Verizon Centre (4 p.m., Sportsnet, Team 1040). “The thing is, it was made of tape, so it’s never going to be perfectly round. It was never going to come off the wall the same way every time. There was no way I could control these things, but I’d let it weigh heavily on my mind and let it affect my play on the ice when really it had no bearing at all.”

Alzner’s “routine” started hours before the game and lasted right up until puck drop. At precise times, he’d move from the floor ladder to stretching exercises before finishing his off-ice warmup on a stationary bike. Then came the tape. Once on the ice for the pre-game skate, he’d only allow himself to curl into the right side boards twice.

“It’s weird what your brain thinks will help you when you’re younger,” continued the Burnaby Winter Club product and two-time gold medallist with Canada’s world junior team.

This marks Alzner’s first full season with the Capitals after spending the better part of the past two campaigns with the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, where he won back-to-back Calder Cup titles with the Hershey Bears.

But his past eccentricities didn’t end at the rink. The fifth overall pick in 2005 was known to make his own clothes in junior in an attempt to stay ahead of the fashion curve.

“That was pretty fun, but it was pretty short-lived,” said Alzner, with a laugh. “Me and another guy would buy hats and spray paint them as well as cut up T-shirts then sew one half from each together. We’d cut up jeans and stuff. I’ve always wanted to be different and be one step ahead of everybody. Now I stick with going to the store.”

No wonder. A big reason Alzner didn’t make the Capitals sooner was more to do with his hefty contract than his skill. The 6-2, 210-pounder can earn up to $1.65 million this season, half of which comes in the form of bonuses. Washington has been near the salary-cap threshold the past three seasons.

“I fully expected he’d make their lineup right off the bat,” said Hitmen general manager and head coach Kelly Kisio. “The amount of time he put in and the effort he put in for us was outstanding. He has everything a good defenceman needs. He has good size, skates well, handles the puck well — I thought he’d be there for sure. It’s just sometimes there’s things as a player you don’t control. But it was just a matter of time.”
It was former Capitals backup goalie Jose Theodore who finally convinced Alzner to eliminate many of his superstitions from his game. Theodore was guilty of a few unnecessary customs himself and it took him 10 years before the now Minnesota Wild netminder figured things out.

“In my first season of pro he saw what I was doing and told me that he used to be just as picky about things and all they were doing was sapping energy he should have been focusing on the game,” said Alzner, who was named the CHL’s top defenceman in 2008. “It’s important not to overthink things. There’s enough things to worry about beside what time I got on the bike, tapping my stick a certain number of times and whether I caught a ball of tape right.”

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