Playing cards in the hotel in Winnipeg: (left to right) Menace players Ricky Hoegg, Tommy Barlow, John Pothast, Jake Leeker and Nick Jones. Photo and story by Lindsay Stoner.
Posted Monday, June 13, 2016
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to travel with the Des Moines Menace?
Well, thanks to Menace intern Lindsay Stoner, here’s your chance to find out. Follow the team around Canada through the eyes of a first-time team traveler.
THURSDAY, JUNE 9
7 a.m. – The journey to Canada began early in the morning. No surprise, about 30 minutes after leaving Des Moines, over half the players were already fast asleep.
11:45 a.m. – After what felt like an eternity on the bus (sadly only about four hours), we finally stopped to grab something to eat. Jimmy John’s lived up to their slogan and made all 27 of our sandwiches in under 25 minutes, it was freaky fast!
6:30 p.m. – We finally made it to Thunder Bay! While waiting to get checked into the hotel, all the boys immediately went to check their phones to see if they got Wi-Fi; luckily, we did.
8 p.m. – After checking into our rooms, the team ventured to Applebee’s, where we had a better experience than the first time (in Wichita last month for the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup). They had about six waiters and waitresses ready to go and we were in and out of there in a little over an hour. Head coach Mike Matkovich (from here on out we’ll refer to him as “Matko”) was happy about that. The best surprise of all was when the staff sang “Happy Birthday” to the two birthday boys (player-coach Leigh Veidman on his b-day and assistant coach Greg Hennelly, whose birthday is June 8).
FRIDAY, JUNE 10
7 a.m. – GAME DAY! Another early wake-up call, but for a much more exciting reason. Breakfast food! We walked to a small, local restaurant that wasn’t ready for our huge group, but they made it work.
11 a.m. – Matko wanted to go check out the field so we drove over there. When we arrived there was a children’s track meet going on so we were forced to do a little kick-around and stretch on a grassy area nearby.
2:30 p.m. – Our pre-game meal was at Boston Pizza, where the staff changed all the TV’s to…you guessed it…a UEFA Euro 2016 soccer game. These boys can’t get enough soccer, apparently.
6:15 pm. – Off we went to Fort William Stadium for our the first half of a Friday-Saturday doubleheader with our arch-rivals, the Thunder Bay Chill. Fellow intern Megan Lankford and I searched and finally found some free Wi-Fi so we could live-tweet the game. The game was very physical, with two Thunder Bay players getting red cards and sent off in the first 15 minutes. The team fought their way through and won 2-0, and we got out of the stadium as quick as we could.
SATURDAY, JUNE 11
11 a.m. – Megan and I walked to Subway to turn in our orders while the players relaxed before the pre-game meal. When we returned to the hotel we found players sitting outside in the hallway trying to get service so they could text.
9:30 p.m. – The team came out with another win against Thunder Bay – the Menace’s first sweep here in a decade! Thank you to the mail room, where I jacked the purple marker that I gave to Matko before the first game – it ended up being the good luck charm.
9:45 p.m. – Rookie mistake: Megan and I set out coconut water and protein bars for the players after the game. Little did we know that it was only supposed to be protein shakes. Oops! Luckily we won so no one seemed to care that much.
10 p.m. – Megan and I had to frantically get all the pizza orders and drinks together and ready to go for the boys after they did recovery in the hotel pool.
SUNDAY, JUNE 12
9:30 a.m. – Another travel day. We had a solid eight-hour bus ride from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg. Leigh and Greg were on the lookout for some “exotic” Canadian animals. They were pretty pleased when we passed a bear….even though it was dead.
6 p.m. – The coaching staff, bus driver and interns all went on an adventure to find a Tim Horton’s. Leigh and I were dead-set on getting some delicious donuts. We walked around for about 20 minutes attempting to find it, and Matko even asked an old lady who completely ignored him (and looked a little scared). We eventually found it. Unfortunately it was closed. Our hearts were broken.
6:45 p.m. – The whole group went to watch the WSA Winnipeg vs. Chicago Fire U23 game, which was moved indoors due to threatening thunderstorms. On an outdoor field the night before, the first-place Fire won 2-0 to extend last-place Winnipeg’s winless streak to 32. Tonight, we witnessed an upset in a match that the home team won 1-0 – WSA’s first win in more than two years.
10:00 p.m. – Some of the guys invited us to play some card games. They definitely enjoyed themselves more than Megan and I did, because we had no idea what we were doing.
So there’s a little peak into what it’s like to travel with the Menace. Everyone’s in good spirits, with a 4-0-1 record heading into tomorrow’s match in Winnipeg. The team’s unbeaten streak is at 13 (going back to last season), and hopefully it will still be in tact when we return to the United States and prepare for Saturday’s home game against St. Louis.