Exhibition season is winding down. All around the league there are promising rookies hoping to make the final cut, just like every year.
And just like every year, that means these newcomers will have to learn the rules of being a rookie on a pro sports team. These days that means pretty harmless stuff, usually revolving around the road trips. Things like letting the veterans go up the hotel elevators first, or fetching beverages from the beer store while the vets relax, or staying behind to help the trainers unload the bus.
Oh, and never, ever get caught breaking curfew.
I say get caught because inevitably every year I suspect many players indulge in some late night tastes of the city when travelling. The Roxy in Vancouver. Chez Paree in Montreal. Ooh la la!
Scotty Bowman was very much a stickler for curfews, even in Montreal when his team was winning four Stanley Cups in a row. He did not want any of his players out past their bedtimes, although many still did. They knew he was watching, and learned his usual tricks. He liked to hide in the lobby to surprise his night owls with a surprise welcome. The players learned to find alternative ways back into the hotel, or just waited for the old taskmaster to go to bed.
But one night Bowman got his players good. Real good.
On this particular night (reportedly in Vancouver) the players were relieved to see there was no sign of Bowman hiding in the lobby. They safely walked right through to the elevators and up to their rooms.
The only hiccup was one zealous fan who also happened to be the night porter at the hotel. He was not shy and asked the late arriving players for their autographs on a stick he just happened to have. The players were in a good mood and obliged happily.
Imagine their surprise the next morning at practice as Bowman unveiled the exact same stick and began reading the names of all the players who broke curfew the night before!