By John Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 7, 2011; 8:54 PM
I'm pretty sure I've never pondered what it is that professional hockey players do on their days off, but whatever I thought it was, it wasn't what the NHL's San Jose Sharks did Monday afternoon. They were at the National Archives, crowding around the Declaration of Independence.
I guess I thought a day off for a professional hockey player would involve, I dunno, strippers or dentists or something.
"This is a great city," the team's coach, Todd McLellan, told me. "It's not someplace we visit every year."
And because the Sharks were gifted with a rare free day in Washington before Tuesday's game against the Caps, they decided on a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Archives. About half the players, along with some coaches and trainers, perused the Charters of Freedom in the Rotunda and then were ushered into a private room where archivists had placed items they thought might interest them.
In other words: as much stuff about Canada as they could find.
Waiting for them was the archivist, David Ferriero. The archivist grew up in Massachusetts, where boys are required to know how to play hockey, "although I wouldn't call what I did playing hockey," he confessed. His second cousin, Benn Ferriero, plays for the Sharks and had set up the tour three months ago. But the sports gods are nothing if not fickle, and on Sunday night, Benn was sent to the team's minor-league franchise in Worcester, Mass.
"You'd think they could have waited a day," the archivist muttered.
Except for the 6-4 team captain, Joe Thornton, who goes by the nickname "Jumbo," the hockey players were smaller than I thought they would be. I guess the skates add a few inches.
"We're going to show you a little snapshot of our collection, as well as a few surprises for those of you who are Canadian," the archivist said, urging the Sharks to move forward, the better to peruse the history on display.
"No gum, please, or candy," an Archives staffer announced.
Trevor Plante, the archivist detailed to describe the documents, said, "Do you dislike Sidney Crosby as much as I do?"
There were a few bitter chuckles.
Trevor moved down a table, pointing out documents brought from the vaults. There were loyalty oaths Continental Army officers were required to sign, denouncing their allegiance to King George III. There was the 1846 Oregon Treaty establishing much of the border between the United States and Canada. There was the canceled $7.2 million check the government used to buy Alaska from Russia.
"You can say you've seen a check for $7.2 million," Trevor said.
"Again," said Coach McLellan, cracking up the team.
"That usually wows most people," Trevor said.
What wowed the Sharks was War Plan Crimson, the U.S. Army's 1930s contingency plan to invade Canada, should that ever be necessary. Trevor explained that U.S. forces would invade the Maritime Provinces and then move westward, taking Montreal, Winnipeg, Vancouver.
"Where's Toronto on here?" one player asked, moving closer to the yellowing paper that outlined our invasion plans. (It was declassified in 1974.)
Why a museum trip?
"It's a form of team-building," said Coach McLellan.
"It's better than sleeping in bed half the day," Jumbo said.
"Remember in Stockholm, we went to that one museum with the Viking ship?" said Arnulfo Aguirre, the team's massage therapist.
"The oldest reclaimed Viking ship," said assistant athletic trainer Wes Howard.
The Archives tour over, someone said, "The Holocaust Museum: Where is that?"Tale of the tape
As I removed the frost from my windshield the other morning, I became nostalgic for the time when every car in America had an ice scraper on board, even those driven in near-tropical climes. The scraper was the cassette case.
The New York Times reported the other day that the 2010 Lexus SC 430 was the last model to offer a cassette deck as an option. Too bad. The cassette case - that clear, hinged-plastic contraption - was perfect for scraping ice. I suppose a CD case might work, but I've never tried it. There's definitely not an iPhone app for that.