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Differences aside, Rampage bonding on the road

The San Antonio Rampage have come up with a unique method of team bonding for their 10-game road trip, covering close to 6,000 miles in a 21-day span.

They’re growing mustaches.

The mustaches have done more than provide new nicknames and fun jokes, they have also brought the team together which the Rampage hope will carry over on the ice.

Rampage head coach Pat Conacher understands the importance of being a team and how being together as a team off the ice helps to be a successful team on the ice.

The second-year AHL head coach has very strict rules while on the road in order to promote team cohesion. His policy is that the second you step on that bus, the cell phone is shut off. He believes that the cell phone is a distraction for the players and wants them to take advantage of the travel time by bonding.

With the Rampage currently on their annual rodeo road trip (the team is forced out of the AT&T Center every February for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo), it seems that they are on the bus more ever; meaning that that the cell phone policy is still enforced.

One of the best examples of teamwork comes around every four years at the Olympics. With the 2006 Winter Olympics underway, the athletes are performing and working as a joint team regardless of sport, to push their country to victory and to prove that they truly are the best in the world.

Rampage forwards Tim Jackman and Justin Cox agree that it would be an honor to represent your country in the Olympics and that anybody would be proud to do their best to bring home a medal. But as in any sport, there is another bond between the athletes. They share the same dedication, hard work, and understanding of what it takes to excel in their individual sport. Athletes also form bonds with fellow hockey players, figure skaters or snowboarders because they share the same passion for their sport regardless of nationality.

Teamwork is important for any team and the special thing about hockey is that there are so many nations represented in the sport. The Rampage currently have three players from the Czech Republic, five from the United States and 14 from Canada. With such a diverse group it is hard not to have a friendly rivalry between them.

Canada and the United States have been known to have a rivalry in hockey for a long time, even illustrated by the annual AHL All-Star Classic with PlanetUSA and Canada fighting for bragging rights every year.

The guys have their own personal jokes between the Canadians and the Americans. Joe Callahan, a Boston native, recalls getting picked on for having too much education (he attended Yale University).

“The difference between a Canadian hockey player and an American hockey player stems from the way they grow up,” he states. “Canadians tend to look at hockey as a job, a job that they enjoy. Hockey is number one to the Canadian hockey players and they are willing to move from city to city doing everything possible in order to play hockey.”

Recently the team was on a three-day stint in Canada as Callahan joked that “the Americans had to hold their breath those three days so they wouldn’t have to breathe the same air as the Canadians and we couldn’t drink the water because it is Canadian water.”

Callahan also points out that “the Americans rag on the Canadian players when we travel to Canada since they are returning home.”

The Merritt, B.C., native Cox points out his difficulty understanding his roommate, Callahan, because of his thick Boston accent. “It is so hard to understand what he is saying on certain words such as ‘had slap shot’ when he is really saying ‘hard slap shot.’"

Canadians and Americans both take some heat.

Cox illustrates that everyone thinks Canadians travel by dog sled and snow shoes but admits that he does indeed like maple syrup and bacon. Quebec native Pascal Rheaume explains, “I am proud to be Canadian and I love maple syrup. I bring cans of Canadian maple syrup back to the States because it is much better than the U.S. maple syrup.”

One thing that Cox and Rheaume agree on is that Canada has a lot to offer for the sport of hockey from a plethora of frozen lakes for great skating to the wonderful signature clothing brand, Roots (which Team USA has worn in the last two Winter Olympics).

Canada produces some of the best hockey players in the world including Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, just as the U.S. has Chris Chelios and Keith Tkachuk.

Jackman points out that the U.S. can offer other great sports such as football. Recently the team got together in Toronto to watch the Super Bowl at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant after they played the Marlies the day before.

Whether you are Canadian or American there are certain things that remain the same in hockey, including a passion for the sport and the importance of teamwork. Of course, a friendly rivalry can always help.