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40 Second Men

Source - DirecTV's ON SPORTS Magazine - February 2000

The most intense 40 seconds in sports, through the eyes of Three Kings who make their living on the shift.

For the next 40 seconds, three members of the Los Angeles Kings will take you on the ride of your life.  Unlike George Clooney's "Three Kings", last Fall's artistic war drama, the only thing Hollywood about our Three Kings is their fan base that resides in the glittery suites of the Staples Center.

Clooney, Ice Cube and Marky Mark waged their personal 2 1/2 hour war against Saddam with gold in mind.  Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake and Ziggy Palffy wage their battles 40 seconds at a time for nine grueling months with goals in mind.

Before we jump over the boards and start our shift, some perspective is needed.  Exactly how long is 40 seconds in sports?

*In baseball, 40 seconds is the time it takes a relief pitcher to stroll in from the bullpen.
*In football, 40 seconds appears on the play clock, but the actual moving parts of a play takes between five and eight seconds.
*In basketball, 40 seconds equals three full time and two-20 second timeouts.
*In hockey, 40 seconds is both an eternity and a snapshot.  In the time it takes to run a typical shift in the NHL, the body, mind and soul of a hockey player are all exposed.  A player must go full throttle or eat ice shavings.  But the same player must slow down everything around him in order to make sense of it.  He must understand exactly who's on the ice and what they are trying to do, then decided on a proper course of action.  And he must spit out an answer in the time it takes most of us to shave one side of our face.

The rare athlete who can master the physical and mental skills of a shift wears an NHL sweater.  Three such athletes are the Three Kings, LA's talented trio who have helped carry the Kings back to the top of the powerful Western Conference.  In an exclusive interview with Robitaille, Palffy and Blake, the editorial staff at DirecTV On Sports discovered exactly what it takes to be a 40-second man.

:40 - "The moment I jump over the boards and onto the ice, I already know exactly who's on the ice and where the puck is," Robitaille says.  "You've got to know your surroundings.  I always watch my [opposing] winger so I know who I'm going to check.  I'm always picturing in my mind where everyone is on the ice.  I want to get a step on my defender, and I usually can do that as soon as I jump on the ice."

:38 - "My job is to score goals and assist on goals for our team, so I'm immediately going to the spot on the ice that puts me in a good position to do that," Palffy says.  "Like Luc, I need to know who's coming onto the ice with me and to understand how they play.  You have to be prepared to receive the puck.  The first couple of seconds are critical to putting yourself in the right position."

:32 - "It takes about 5-8 seconds to figure out what's happening and where you should be.  Once I'm settled in my position on the ice and the flow of the play is coming my way, I have to make a decision," Blake says.  "As a defenseman, I must know the offensive palyers who are in my zone.  If a guy's coming at you, you've got to be ready to hit him.  I've got to know exactly who's out there, because everyone plays a different style of hockey."

:29 - "I'm really up to full speed in the first 10 seconds," Blake says.  "The first 10 seconds are key.  Of course, late in games, the shifts can get pretty tiring.  But those first 10 seconds are your most important.  You can really make a lot happen when your legs are their freshest."

:23 - "Every shift is different," Robitaille says.  "On some shifts, you're going up and down the ice four or five times and you're absolutely blown by the time you reach the halfway point.  Others, you're camped out in your zone and you could go forever."

:18 - "Getting tired isn't a big thing," Palffy says.  "You just go all out for as long as you can, sit down and then do it again and again.  I guess as the shift gets to the end, especially late in games, a lot of guys are moving a bit slower.  But the ones in the best condition have no problems."

:13 - "Fans don't realize how long 40 seconds can be," Blake said.  "When the shift is under 15 seconds to go and it's been a shift in which I've skated from one end of the ice to the other, my body is pretty tired.  You push it to the end, but 40 seconds is sometimes an eternity."

:09 - "The last 20 seconds really are more of a defensive mode, especially when you're chasing around the puck or checking a guy like Jeremy Roenick," Blake says.  "Late in the shift, you're sometimes just looking to get the puck over the blueline and get off the ice."

:03 - "Coach [Andy] Murray does a good job keeping our shifts to 40 seconds," Robitaille says.  "He wants quick shifts so that we're fresh for the entire season.  There are times that I don't want to leave the ice, but I know I've got to in order to maintain our strategy.  I'll sometimes look up and see a bunch of new teammates on the ice and know I'd better get to my bench fast."

:00 - "A shift in the NHL is as intense mentally as it is physically," Blake says.  "You have a clock inside your head that tells you when 40 seconds is up, but sometimes you get trapped in your zone and you just can't get off the ice.  But if the puck is over the redline or over the blueline and you've got a chance, you get off the ice.  I've been caught on a power play that kept me on the ice for two minutes.  It takes 10 minutes just to recover from those.  Forty seconds is just about right."


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page created 20 February 2000