Jack Johnson might have been drafted third overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but last Thursday was a different story.
As the Wolverines went round by round selecting their teammates for an on-ice competition, the sophomore defenseman was left waiting to hear his name called.
Alternate captain Jason Dest finally selected Johnson in the final round of the mock draft. Even though he had a team to play on now, it wasn’t time for Johnson to grab a stick and puck. For this game, he would need a rock and a broom.
The Michigan hockey team was about to bond over a game of curling. Last weekend’s four-day trip to Fairbanks for a series against Alaska left a lot of time to build team unity.
While curling, the Wolverines got to have some fun along with healthy competition – and those picked last in the draft had the opportunity to prove themselves.
“Jack Johnson actually did pretty good,” Dest said. “I didn’t expect it. I picked him up in the last round of the draft, but he ended up coming through for me.”
Dest’s first pick also surprised him, but not in a good way.
Many players thought the Canadians on the team would be naturally good curlers, considering that the sport is one of Canada’s most beloved activities.
With that in mind, Dest picked freshman Brian Lebler first. But the senior defenseman’s strategy based on nationality didn’t exactly pan out, as Lebler failed to score a point for his team.
“He was terrible,” sophomore Andrew Cogliano said. “I think he was the worst on the team.”
Cogliano, the only other Canadian, was the first overall pick in the draft.
The Woodbridge, Ontario, native found it funny that he was No. 1, since he had never curled before.
But his rookie status didn’t prevent Cogliano from representing his country in style. Unlike Lebler, Cogliano lived up to the expectations put on Canadians by helping his team get close in its 3-2 loss.
“Cogliano was definitely a pro,” curling teammate Travis Turnbull said.
Michigan has played Alaska on the road three times over the past four seasons, so for many of the seniors, this was their third trip to Fairbanks. The team has gone curling on each of those trips.
“It’s my third time doing it, and I don’t think I’ve improved one bit,” Dest said. “But I still had a blast every time I did it.”
Before curling, the Wolverines went to see the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, an 800-mile-long connection that transfers oil from Prudhoe Bay to a port in Valdez.
A few players also joined coach Red Berenson on a two-mile walk from the hotel to the Carlson Center for practice on Thursday in sub-zero temperatures.
Many said that just being in Alaska was a thrill, but winning both games against the Nanooks probably didn’t hurt the warm feelings about the trip.
“We know what we were going for: win a couple games and get the sweep,” Cogliano said. “I think we did that really well and along the way, we did a good job of coming together as a team.”