Karl Alzner and the F Word
Karl Alzner may no longer be Mr. Pre-Game Quirk, nor does he make special recipe smoothies or homemade patterned baseball caps any more.
"I stay away from all of that," he told me yesterday. "I don't have time for it. I'm pretty Plain Jane now. I try to be, at least."
But there are still bullet points to be had.
* Alzner refuses to say the "F" word, owing to an 8th grade New Year's Resolution.
"And he's kept it?" asked Coach Bruce Boudreau, who admitted never having made a similar resolution. "Isn't that fabulous? I mean, that says a lot about what kind of person he is, you know? It's why his reputation of not making mistakes is probably so good, and you can see it. Unless he's only in the ninth grade now."
And so what does this professional athlete say when he gets particularly frustrated?
"He says 'frick,' noted teammate and roommate Sean Collins. "F-R-I-C-K, I would spell it."
"I just decided I didn't want to do it," said Alzner, whose decision was based neither on religious conviction nor a particularly dramatic childhood scene. "Of course your parents get mad if you swear when you're young, so I decided to make a resolution. That way, I'll have to do it for myself.....I just have no need to do it, so I just don't."
* His love of fine clothing has already drawn him to Tysons Corner six times in the 14 days he's lived in Washington.
"Four days in a row last week," he said proudly. "First I went because I wanted to look for suits, but I was with a bunch of the guys so I didn't want to walk in, I take quite a while. So the next day I went and bought my suit, the day after that I picked up my suit and then the following day I went and bought dress shirts. I thought I had one that was going to be ok to wear with it, but it turned out it didn't go, so I had to go back."
"I was ready to go about an hour in and he wanted to keep going," said Collins, who recently went to the mall with Alzner. "It felt like a lot of hours."
Since he's making nearly $900,000 a year, and he likes nice clothes, and he goes to the mall once every 2.8 days, you'd think he owns quite a lot of suits, right?
"Just two," he said, before correcting himself. "One and a half. One's ripped. The guys made fun of me last trip, I ripped the pockets. My suit fits fairly tight and I bent down too quick to pick up a ball and I had stuff in my pocket and ripped the pocket pretty good. Going to get it fixed. I'm still wearing it, and I won't stop, I don't think."
Why doesn't he just fill his closet?
"I like to shop but I also try to look for bargains for the most part," he said. "I look for good deals. It's hard, I don't really feel good spending so much money on one item, but I needed a new suit now. I knew mine was getting torn about and the guys are pretty into their suits here."
* His pre-game routine involves throwing a homemade ball of tape against the wall in the hallway that runs past the Wizards locker room in the Verizon Center.
"I just take some tape, I roll it up into a little ball so it's not a perfect circle, it's kind of got edges and stuff, so when I throw it against the wall it hits and bounces weird places," he said. "I just do that to get my reaction time fired up. The goalies do it so I figured I might as well do it, too, I need to look at the puck as well."
He started doing it as a competition with a teammate in juniors. Now he does it as a competition with himself.
"I start by throwing underhand," he said, "then I start throwing overhand, then I throw real fast really close to the wall, and then I back up and throw it really hard. Before it was if I dropped it a bunch of times then it was bad news, but now I've started to realize that I can drop it a couple times, it's ok. Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce my way."
* Living in a hotel room with no refrigerator has certain disadvantages. Like, the other day, he and Collins tried ordering two bowls of granola, and it took 45 minutes.
"I guess they couldn't find the milk," he said. "We've got nothing. It's all eating out, unless we go to Sloaner's place, in that case we get to eat. He's a good cook. Cooked for us in Hershey, too. Shepherd's pie. Oh, so good."
* Part of his Christmas present to his father was to bring him to Toronto to see his favorite team (the Leafs) play against his son. Alzner scored his first goal in that game, and also notched an assist; that puck went to his dad. After the game, the team left right away. And Alzner's dad?
"I told him he had to go get something good to eat, so he went out and had a good time I'm sure," Alzner said. "I gave him some money, I said go have fun."
* His nickname in Hershey? Quick Question Karl, because every time he entered a room, he'd say "I've just got a quick question." He didn't know that was his nickname until yesterday, but he admitted "there were a lot of questions, yeah."
* Adjusting to the NHL? Well, the players are bigger, faster, etc, but that's not all. The Gatorade servings are also larger.
"in junior we just have little cups and you fill up your Gatorade or your water from your dispenser," he explained. "Here, they don't have them, so I've just had to improvise a little bit....I've had to figure out ways to just get a little bit at a time. I found cups, I've weaseled them out, and I just get a little bit at a time."
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