Every other Thursday, Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas will give you a peek behind the curtain and share stories about what he sees and hears in his job as a rink side reporter.
Here’s this week’s collection:
1. One observation the Senators’ Matt Murray had after Drake Batherson scored in his sixth consecutive game on Monday was Batherson’s ability to consistently be in the right spot to get a quality chance.
A lot of that has to do with his hockey sense, no question, but part of the reason he has managed to beat opponents to those areas is his improved skating.
Jill Plandowski is a power skating coach in Halifax and has known Batherson since he was born. She went to Acadia University with Batherson’s dad, Norm. For years, just one house separated the Plandowskis and Bathersons in the neighbourhood where Drake grew up.
Plandowski first started working with Batherson in the spring of 2017 a few months before the Senators selected him 121st overall. At the time, he wasn’t a great skater and was still adjusting to his own height. Batherson went from hovering around the five-foot mark at age 15 to suddenly north of six-feet just a few years later.
The biggest improvement in Plandowski’s eyes has been Batherson’s posture while skating. Drake loves to golf in the summertime. Plandowski said he used to skate with such rounded shoulders like he’s hovering over a putt. Over time, they have worked on getting his shoulders back, promoting more arm action and opening up his chest and hips as he moves.
“That just helps everything,” Plandowski said.
Plandowski and her husband, Darryl, who is the Arizona Coyotes Director of Amateur Scouting, have three boys in hockey. Jack (15), Oscar (17) and Marshall (19) all grew up idolizing Batherson. He was the local star who was not going to be denied of reaching his ultimate goal.
“Every step of the way he has had to prove himself and he has more than done it,” Plandowski said.
2. Watching the video the Sens put out with Tim Stützle talking about being named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for February, two things stuck out to me.
First, when describing the roll his linemate Batherson was on he said, “he is very hot right now.” That had me searching how popular the movie Zoolander was in Germany in its day (it did over $2 million in the box office according to boxofficemojo.com).
Second, Stützle referred to Batherson as “Schmotzy”. That was a nickname I had never heard before and my interest was instantly piqued. I decided to go straight to the source.
As the story goes, Batherson was watching an old hockey documentary one night when he was playing Jr. A and was drawn to Bobby Schmautz of the Boston Bruins. He loved that his nickname was “Schmotzy” so much he decided to take the name for himself.
“So I told my buddies to start calling me that,” Batherson said with a laugh.
“Ever since I was 17 I’ve had that name and all my teammates and friends have called me that.”
Schmotzy and Stü. Dynamic linemates with great chemistry, or buddy cop TV show in the making?
3. Andrew Matheson was the student manager for the Arizona State Men’s Hockey Team when he first started working with Joey Daccord in his freshman season during the 2016-17 campaign. Matheson comes from a goaltending background and the two would go over video together between games.
Their relationship became so strong, head coach Greg Powers made Matheson the goalie coach for Daccord’s final two years with the Sun Devils.
One of his favourite Daccord stories came at the start of his junior year. Daccord was fresh off a summer of putting in a lot of work and was ready to have a big season. As they went out for their first on-ice goaltending session…it was Daccord giving Matheson his marching orders.
“Okay, Mel, here’s what you’re going to do,” Matheson recalls Daccord saying (Mel is short for Melon, which is Matheson’s nickname due to an oversized noggin).
“You’re going to stand in the slot and shoot pucks at my head.”
“You’re going to shoot 30-40 pucks from the slot at my head and I’m going to catch them.”
Matheson couldn’t believe what he was being asked to do, but he obliged. He started sifting a couple pucks towards Daccord’s head before the goalie stopped him.
“Mel, you gotta shoot harder than that,” Daccord told him.
“So here I am just bombing pucks at his head and he’s catching every one of them,” Matheson said.
“That was one of my favourites.”
Matheson is now the Director of Operations for the men’s hockey program at ASU. He described Daccord as someone who has a lot of energy and doesn’t stop talking about hockey.
“I just embraced it,” Matheson said. “If he felt he had someone in his corner, I knew it would be special to watch him develop.”
Daccord had 30 saves in his second career start in Tuesday’s loss to Montreal. The wins are going to come in time. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, after all.