Like all hockey teams, the San Jose Sharks are creatures of habit.
There’s Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns working on tips and deflections before practice. Joe Thornton following Martin Jones out of the Sharks Head.
One of their lesser-known habits? It’s always Kevin Labanc fishing pucks out of the net during warm-ups, setting up his teammates:
Labanc, with assists from Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl, spoke to Fear the Fin about this ritual:
Fear the Fin: How long have you been fishing the pucks out of the net during warm-ups?
Kevin Labanc: My first year, Hertl was doing it. I’m pretty sure he did it a little bit of my second year too. But then, he was like, “I’m not doing this job anymore.” He was like, “Bancer, you’re doing it.” It just kind of stuck with me.
FTF: So you’ve been doing it since last year?
KL: Since last year. I don’t mind it. Fish out the pucks. (laughs)
FTF: So you’re just waiting for the next rookie to come in? (to Timo Meier, who’s sitting across the locker room) Timo’s younger than you. He should be doing it.
KL: Yeah, I know. I might pass that job to you.
Timo Meier: He said I should be doing it?
KL: Yeah, you should be.
Unknown player: Yeah, fuck, Timo.
FTF: You’re the youngest guy on the team!
KL: You’re the youngest guy, least amount of games.
TM: Mentally, I’m very old.
KL: Just because of your body.
TM: You have more facial hair than me.
KL: I’ve been growing this out for the past year.
FTF: So it’s just a job you fell into, Kevin? Like serving the too many men on the ice penalties?
KL: It’s just a job of mine. Serve the penalties. I don’t mind it.
FTF: Are you looking to unload the job?
KL: I dunno. Maybe. Depends on how I feel, I guess.
FTF: Well, let’s be honest. You’re going to be a [restricted] free agent. You’re going to be making some money. When you get that contract, you shouldn’t be doing this, right? (laughs)
KL: Well, yeah. But once you get into a routine, you don’t want to change it up. We’ll see. Maybe down the road.
FTF: There’s a little superstition with it?
KL: Yeah, I think guys would be mad if I didn’t do it. They just know I’m passing the puck. Warm-ups, we pass the puck to the same guy, same area.
FTF: Even when you’re fishing the pucks out? You have a routine for passing it? I didn’t know that.
KL: Nobody does. It’s just the way it is though.
FTF: Can you talk a little bit about that routine?
KL: So I give Pavs two pucks. For the three-lane shooting, I go to the right wing first, then middle. Then left lane.
TM: Are you explaining our warm-up over there?
KL: I’m explaining our routine. Then I shoot a couple more toward the left, a couple more toward the middle, a couple more toward the right lane. And then go shoot. Then I fish out the pucks at about the 12-minute mark. Then we do the half-moon shooting.
TM: What do you shoot on net though? Left side? Right side?
KL: I shoot blocker.
TM: Always blocker?
KL: Yeah. Timo, you shoot five-hole?
TM: Do you know what side you skate? You go left, right, right, left? You always go the same side? On the circle? You know when you shoot the puck, do you go left?
KL: You shoot five-hole or blocker. Then you go left side and around.
TM: On the half-moon? I guess so.
KL: So I don’t know why you’re chirping me.
TM: You always go the same routine?
KL: Oh, well, it’s just like a habit. You don’t even think about it. Do this, do that.
FTF: On the road, it’s the same?
KL: Yeah. It’s the same thing.
FTF: How did that transition work between Tommy and you? He just said one day I don’t want to do this anymore?
KL: I think he got hit with the puck and he said I’m not doing this anymore.
FTF: So he was doing that for years then.
KL: Like three or four years.
FTF: Well, that’s some unsung hero shit right there.
KL: Yeah. (laughs)
Fear the Fin: So Kevin said you stopped doing the job of fishing the puck out during warm-ups because you got hit with the puck?
Tomas Hertl: No, no. Because I was youngest, Jumbo told me to do it. But after a couple years, I said, “Let’s change it up, I’m not the youngest anymore. Let’s do somebody else.”
Maybe next time, Bancer won’t do it, some other younger guy. But now he’s the youngest.
FTF: So just to confirm, you were never hit with the puck while doing this job?
TH: I may have been hit by the puck, but not in the face. Sometimes, it is kind of scary because everybody’s shooting and they don’t see you there.
FTF: Who hit you? And who did this job before you?
TH: I can’t remember. (laughs) It was Andrew Desjardins.
Gusev is expected to join the Golden Knights this weekend. https://t.co/WwTfsPqJck— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 12, 2019
Last year, Lukas Radil played in the KHL for Spartak Moskva. So he’s familiar with four-time KHL All-Star Nikita Gusev.
I spoke with Radil yesterday about the prospect of Gusev coming to America.
Fear the Fin: So Nikita Gusev might be joining Vegas soon...
Lukas Radil: Oh, really? No way.
FTF: Can you tell us more about him?
LR: He’s one of the best players in the KHL. If he comes, I’d be really excited to see how he plays here.
He’s really good on power play. Good shot, passes smart. He learned well from Datsyuk.
FTF: How did you guys defend Gusev in the KHL?
LR: I think play to the body. Because he’s a little bit small.
It’s a tough question, how he plays here. It’s a little harder here, small rink. It’s different hockey. It’ll be really interesting.