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From the Rafter: An inside look at NWHL away games

The second in a series from Tatiana Rafter, NWHL free agent.

Hi there! I hope everyone's week is going well. I have been spending the majority of my week outdoors in the sun. A friend of mine came to Vancouver to visit and we went on two hikes. We climbed Grouse Mountain and the Chief.  The Grouse Grind was closed this past Saturday so ventured out onto the BCMC trail that runs alongside the Grind. It was a two hour hike and trust me I was feeling it since I'm a rookie hiker. Yesterday we tackled the Chief in Squamish which was a lot of fun and had an amazing view! Now that I've given you a snippet of what I've been up to this week lets get into some hockey talk. Today I wanted to dive into what life on the road as an NWHL player looks like.

Photo cred to Larissa Blumenschien

Since we played on Sundays we usually left from Buffalo for road games on Saturday morning. We would either have a full gear skate Friday nights or a tracky pracy on Saturday morning leading up to an away game. A tracky pracy is a skate where you just wear shin pads, elbow pads, helmet, gloves, skates, stick and sweat pants. Usually we would depart on a team bus before noon and start making our way towards our opponent - either Connecticut, New York or Boston.

As the season went on we would have our own spots on the bus. I think small superstitions like that just come with the territory of being hockey players. Everyone liked to do different things on the bus. Kourtney Kunichika was in front of me and she would sleep for hours! I would always rock a coffee, socialize, watch a movie, read and at some point lay down for a nap. Shelby Bram and I would sit across from each other and go to sleep around the same time so we could set up our legs in a comfy way. (It's really hard to be tall and sleep on a bus). There is method to the bus seating madness.

Our GM would bring a big cooler of snacks, water, and Gatorade so we didn't stop much until we got to our final destination. We would eat a team meal around 5pm on the travel day near our hotel and then go check in shortly after dinner.

The next day was game day and you had a lot of freedom with your preparation other than the team breakfast and movement session. You may have a meeting with the coach or your linemates but that was mostly organized on your own. During play-offs and a couple times throughout the regular season we had team video sessions but it wasn't something my team did routinely.

What I liked to do on away gameday weekends was pretty much the same each road trip. Saturday I made sure to stay hydrated on the bus, eat well, get a good nights sleep and watch some video of the upcoming opponent. I find that watching video the night before a game allows me to feel prepared and at ease when I go to sleep. Also, this means I don't need to pack too much into my gameday routine the next day.

On Sunday's I would go to all the team activities and at some point go on a walk with a few of my teammates for coffee. These were usually Skeats, Fickel, McGowan and Williams. During the Isobel Cup Semis against Connecticut, Skeats and I actually went into the hotel gym and rode stationary bikes playing solitaire on the attached computer screens each gameday. I don't know the reason we started doing this but we kept it in our gameday routine for the whole best-of-three series because.. Once again hockey players are superstitious creatures. Oh, how could I forget? A HUGE thing for me is to have a pregame nap whether it's 15 minutes or an hour long. On different days your body will need different things. I would also always shower and put in effort to look polished for games. Gotta look fresh walking into the rink, you know? But, in all seriousness it makes a big difference in how I carry myself walking into the rink as well as looking professional.

Following our road games would be a short cool down and getting right back on the bus to head to Buffalo. These were usually pretty rough trips if we played at 6 or 7pm because that meant getting back at 5-6am and in my bed by 7am. I personally don't sleep very well on the bus so Monday's were a bit of a write off for me and I would end up starting my day around 3pm (haha!). What can you do?

Hope you enjoyed a few tidbits about my experiences on the road! Feel free to tweet @tatianarafter for any additional questions or comments you may have! If you have some topics you are interested in hearing about fire those over as well!!

Looking forward to connecting with you next Wednesday!

- The Rafter