The Final Countdown: How to Prepare for the CrossFit Open

‘Tis the season to put your CrossFit training to the test! The CrossFit Games season is upon us with registration now live, and competitors training for the February 27th release of the first Open workout. You squat all year with this elite athletic contest in mind, but now is the time to up the ante in pursuit of a spot at Regionals.

Here are seven tips to jack up your CrossFit Open training:


The first Open workout will be released on February 27th. Over the course of five weeks, one workout will be released every Thursday, giving competitors until the following Monday at 5 p.m. Pacific Time to officially record their scores. Mark the dates and ensure you have adequate time to attempt the workout and record your performance. It’s also important to note that some affiliates join together to judge workouts publicly. This is done in an attempt to take pressure off individual boxes and to build camaraderie between athletes. Check with your box or local affiliates to see if any group workouts are schedule for the CrossFit Open.


The CrossFit Games website has posted all the Open Workouts from the past three years. Try your hand at the workouts and judge your performance to determine what you should focus on when moving forward with your training.


As you attempt past Open workouts, are there specific moves you struggle with? It’s important to move efficiently to prevent fatigue and injury. If there are moves you cannot do flawlessly, now is the time to master them.


Each CrossFit move depends heavily on stable spines and flexible joints. As you work your way through past Open workouts, note any instability or stiffness you may feel. Add more stretches, yoga, or longer recovery sessions into your workouts.


In the three or four weeks leading up to the first Open workout, do all WODs at 100%. Upping the intensity is an excellent way to prepare for the pressure of the competition and also identify your weaknesses. Going 100% may mean adding more rest days into your schedule, but a little extra rest and relaxation is vital to your performance.


The week before the first Open workout is released, consider cutting down your WOD volume. One option is to complete your regular WODs but cut the repetitions in half or reduce loads to the minimum. Minimizing the impact on your body while still staying sharp is key to performing at your best. Throughout the five-week Open, make sure to rest… a lot.


Checking the leaderboard on the CrossFit Games website can be both exhilarating and debilitating. Seeing so many competitors from all over the world is exciting, but noting the ability of these extraordinary athletes can make you question your own strength and skill. Remember that you’re capable of more than you think. Training for the CrossFit Games puts a lot of emphasis on physical strength, but staying mentally strong is just as important.

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A Knight in Padded Armour: Profile of Calgary Flames Prospect Corban Knight

If one were to ask the average American grandmother to describe a hockey player she might say, “big, bruised and mean.” While big and bruised might be accurate, Abbotsford Heat centre and Flames prospect Corban Knight takes the thuggish stereotype and turns it on its head. With a strong connection to family, deep roots in Canada and a pure-and-simple love for the game, it’s tough to find a more passionate player and sincerely nice athlete than Knight.

Like so many professional players before him, Corban Knight, 23, learned to skate as soon as he was steady on his feet. Growing up in a small Canadian town, he first strapped on skates with his parents and five siblings at the outdoor rink (like any good Canadian boy). And while these early memories are fuzzy, he can vividly describe what it was like growing up with hockey in Canada.

“For me growing up every chance I could get I was playing, whether it be street hockey or on the pond or hand hockey in the house hallway. I was just always finding ways to play hockey. I think just the fact that you’re in Canada… from a young age you learn about the game. You grow up with it. Having a love for the game and learning a lot about it, too because you’re always playing.”

At 6’2”, 200 pounds, Knight sizes up nicely against the average NHL player who stands 6’1.3” and weighs 203.7 pounds. But measuring in at approximately 5’3” at age 14, Corban’s size worked against him as he was overlooked by Major Junior teams. After Midget Hockey, Corban played Junior A with the Okotoks Oilers—a team just down the road from his family in High River, Alberta and with connections to his dream school, the University of North Dakota.

“My mom always pressured education with us… The fact that I can go to college, get a degree and also play really good hockey appealed to me,” Corban explained. “I knew I wanted to go to college and specifically North Dakota. And (the Okotoks Oilers) had had a couple players go there before me, so it was almost like they had a pipeline, connections to the coaches. And I thought it would really help my chances with UND.”

Almost five years later, Corban still remembers the exact day he committed to UND—January 7, 2009. Over his four years in North Dakota, Knight left his mark as the 27th highest scorer in UND’s history with 146 points (52 goals, 94 assists) in 161 games, as a record-setting face-off winner and as a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Top 10 finalist. Not every player sees four years of college hockey through to the end—some follow the bright lights to a professional career early. But he doesn’t regret his decision to stay in Grand Forks.

“It could change in 20 years, but right now staying (at UND) for all four years has been the best decision of my life… Grand Forks and UND is such a special place that, for me, to leave early just didn’t make sense.”

Originally drafted by the Florida Panthers in the fifth round (135th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Knight assumed he would start his professional hockey career on the sandy beaches of The Sunshine State. But nothing is certain in the life of an athlete:

“My agent called me one day and said, ‘Calgary is really interested…’ So, I met with the management and I really had a good feeling about it. They all seemed like great guys and it just seemed like a good fit for me. So, the trade happened and it was pretty special that I got traded to basically my hometown.”

In June 2013, Corban was traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a fourth-round draft selection in the 2013 NHL Draft. The 4,644 km jump from Florida to Alberta was a happy one for Knight:

“Growing up, I was around the Flames. Everyone in my part of the country just bleeds for that team. It was a pretty surreal experience that I was getting traded to a team like that. Even with their farm team here in Abbotsford, just the fact that I was closer to home and in Canada is pretty special to me. My mom was pretty happy that’s for sure.”

Knight wrapped up a successful college hockey career in the spring of 2013, and trained hard all summer in preparation for the Flames’ training camps. After a successful run at development camp, Knight approached September eager to fight for a spot on Calgary’s roster. Just four days before NHL roster submissions were due, Corban was assigned to Calgary’s AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.

“Obviously, when it didn’t work out and they sent me down here to Abbotsford, it was tough at first just because you’re so close to achieving one of your childhood dreams of playing in the NHL. But at the same time, you realize that this is a process and I just needed to come down here and work on my game… At first it’s disappointing, I tried to focus in on the positives and really focus on getting better down here.”

Nestled in the mountains about an hour east of Vancouver, Abbotsford is a scenic place to kick-off a professional hockey career. Knight has enjoyed a strong start to his first pro season, tallying 28 points (9 goals, 19 assists) in 39 games. Outside of the rink, he has also settled into a comfortable (and dare we say, ironic) living situation, sharing an apartment with two teammates, including current linemate and former rival, Ben Hanowski.

“Ben Hanowski played at St. Cloud State when I was at North Dakota. So for four years we were hated rivals and now we’re living together and playing on the same line.”

Reflecting on his career so far, Knight offered some advice to young players with professional aspirations.

“You’ve gotta work hard. There are so many ups and downs in hockey. For me, I got cut from a couple teams. At the time maybe you’re like, well, maybe my career is over and maybe I should pack it in and look at something else. That’s the great thing about hockey, there are always so many chances to play and to make something out of yourself… As long as you work hard, there’s a lot of potential to do pretty great things out there.”

And why did Corban Knight keep playing after being cut from teams and overlooked by scouts as a teenager because of his size? It’s simple.

“Just the love of the game. Hockey is such a huge part of my life. And I love it so much that it was something that I just didn’t want to quit. I knew that if I just kept working hard that good things would happen.”


Originally published at

Annie Erling Gofus writes for . Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at

The Smallest and Best CrossFit Tool: Your Mobile Phone

Your CrossFit toolbox is full of kettlebells, foam rollers and weight plates. But your most portable CrossFit tool? Your mobile phone!

Put your iPhone to work at more than just Tweeting. Use it to track your progress, time your intervals and find sweat-inducing WODs hundreds of miles from the gym. Here are the seven hottest CrossFit apps for iPhone and Android.




SugarWOD puts your gym in the palm of your hand. Even away from the box, you can log your workout results, check the leaderboard and send your comrades virtual fist bumps. SugarWOD is available free for iPhone and connects you to CrossFitters across the globe as well as to thousands of workouts.




Utilized by the bigwigs at crossfit.comTimers Pro is an incredibly simple tool used by CrossFit pros. Timer Pro offers six different timers to its users, from interval timer, to stopwatch, to lap timer. Listen to music while running as many timers as you like, and count reps or sets by touching anywhere on the screen. This app is available for iPhone and costs $1.99.



Used by more than a million athletes and coaches, Ubersense is the ultimate way to record, analyze and improve your skills. Record or import video of your moves and analyze your abilities with slow-motion playback, zoom and side-by-side comparisons. Share your progress online and turn to the Ubersense community for drills and coaching profiles that will help you improve. This is an invaluable tool for coaches hoping to train and track their clients’ progress. Ubersense is available for free on iPhone.




More than 26.2 million people use RunKeeper to track their runs, bike rides, cross-country skiing and more using their phone’s GPS. RunKeeper offers users detailed statistics about their physical activity, including pace, distance and time. Stay motivated with Personal Record notifications when you reach a new milestone, and follow training plans to meet your goals. This app is available for free on iPhone and Android.



Fitness is about more than just pumping iron and running a marathon. Watch what you eat with help from MyFitnessPal. This free app remembers your favorite dishes, saves entire meals and has a massive food database for users to browse. Set calorie goals and let MyFitnessPal break down your daily diet into fats, carbs, protein, fiber and more. Enter workouts and track how many calories you consume and burn each day with the help of this comprehensive app available on iPhone and Android.



Leaves the spreadsheets at home and track your strength, 5/3/1 and Smolov Junior training with this easy to use app. Big Lifts 2 is free on iPhone and Android and allows users to add and modify lifts and log lifts through cycles. Let Big Lifts calculate your plate load and check out detailed graphs that track your progress



Travel across the globe with your CrossFit box packed in your carry-on! The Travel WODs app includes over 120 Workouts of the Day that require zero pieces of equipment. Use your bodyweight to rock various CrossFit workouts in hotel rooms, bedrooms or small workout areas. Use Travel WODs’ white board to track your progress and add new workouts to challenge yourself. A built-in timer and progress graph makes reaching new goals easy. Travel WODs costs $1.99 and is available for iPhone and Android.

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Tune In To Tone Up: The Best CrossFit YouTube Channels

The internet is overflowing with incredible CrossFit resources. From Twitter feeds to blogs, online CrossFit knowledge is endless. For a visual look at this sport, look no further than YouTube where CrossFitters across the globe post videos about technique, competition and pure-and-simple WODs. Here are the five greatest CrossFit YouTube Channels.


This YouTube Channel is the official site for CrossFit® videos. CrossFit® explains, “The CrossFit® program is designed for universal scalability making it the perfect application for any committed individual regardless of experience.” This YouTube Channel demonstrates its inclusive philosophy by posting videos for everyone: from introductions to CrossFit, to inspiration for athletes, to weightlifting how-tos. This channel is for everyone from people curious about CrossFit to elite CrossFit athletes.


Kelly Starrett’s YouTube Channel focuses on MobilityWOD which is billed as the ultimate guide to resolving pain, preventing injury and optimizing athletic performance. This YouTube Channel helps viewers increase flexibility and treat injuries through stretches and exercises that hone in on every joint. Starrett also helps his viewers deal with everyday pain, such as sitting through long flights in cramped airplanes.



Barbell Shrugged
 is recorded as a podcast but includes beautifully shot video that makes watching this CrossFit talk show even more enjoyable. Every Wednesday the Barbell Shrugged crew talks about CrossFit, strength, conditioning and throws in good natured humor that keeps viewers coming back. Check out Barbell Shrugged’s YouTube Channel to learn about the sport of CrossFit from an entertaining angle.



Pat Flynn’s YouTube Channel
 offers an “intelligent approach to strength, conditioning and lifestyle augmentation.” Flynn’s videos are comprehensive, covering topics from the Paleo Diet to workout tips. A majority of the videos are detailed weightlifting tutorials in which Flynn walks his viewers through various kettlebell workouts and techniques.


Hookgrip’s YouTube Channel is all about Olympic-style weightlifting. Viewers tune into this channel to see Olympic weightlifters in action and to learn more about professional weight lifting techniques. A handful of videos on Hookgrip’s channel offer slow-motion views of lifts, offering viewers a close-up look at expert weight lifting.

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Spartan Race WODs at Your Fingertips

Spartan Races are among the many adventure-based races to challenge runners and fitness buffs. With four levels that range from 3 to 26 miles, Spartan Races will have you sprinting through unknown obstacles. Race organizers don’t release a map of the course before events, but you can be guaranteed mud, water, barbed wire and blazing fire—we’re serious. Created by seven ultra athletes and one Royal Marine, Spartan Race’s goal is simple: To get your heart pumping, your adrenaline rushing and motivate you towards a healthier, fitter lifestyle.

Sounds intense? It is, but Spartan Race organizers won’t just throw you into the fire—sign up online to receive Spartan Race’s Workouts of the Day. While training for your extreme race, these WODs will push you to focus on Spartan’s philosophy of total fitness: Flexibility, strength, muscle  endurance and aerobic power.

Spartan Race doesn’t keep a public database of past WODs, so what you have in your email inbox is what you get. Until now.

The fitness-focused minds over at Dirty Miles have compiled a database of past Spartan Race WODs. The list is sortable by speed, strength and endurance difficulty levels. You can also sort the list by average difficulty.

“As a Spartan Racer and general fitness enthusiast I’ve found the Spartan WOD’s to be very beneficial,” explains Dario Cantatore, the brains behind the Spartan WOD database. “The Spartan Race company emails the WOD’s every day but they don’t keep a running list of them, so if you haven’t subscribed before you will never see the list of workouts you have missed in the past.” To solve this problem, Dirty Miles has put each and every Spartan WOD at your fingertips.

Cantatore updates the WOD database every 1-2 weeks, which keeps you—and extreme racers like you—sweating it out with Spartan workouts. With an easy to navigate list, Dirty Miles will motivate you to kick up your training for a Spartan Race. Every extra burpee counts when there’s fire standing between you and the finish line.

Originally published at 

Warroad Drops the Gloves for Hockeytown, USA Title

Warroadians like to say that their small Minnesota town is known for three things: Walleye, windows and hockey. Walleye because of its prime location on Lake of the Woods, windows because Marvin Windows and Doors is headquartered there and hockey because of sheer numbers.

With a population of 1,781 in 2010, Warroad, Minnesota has produced a surprising number of professional and Olympic hockey players. With nine hometown kids skating in the big leagues over the years, Warroad is slowly reclaiming the title “Hockeytown, USA” from Detroit. While the Motor City earned this nickname years ago due to its habit of winning Stanley Cup championships, Warroad’s right to the moniker has been earned through its community’s rich hockey tradition.

Christian Brothers Hockey Sticks Warroad MN

Roger, left, and Bill (Billy) Christian outside their Christian Bros. hockey stick factory in Warroad, Minn., August 1988. Star Tribune staff photo.

Sure, the Detroit Red Wings’ 11 Stanley Cup wins may carry more weight than Warroad’s six high school state championship titles in the past 20 years, and a four-time National Champ—now defunct—amateur American Senior ice hockey team. But considering this tiny Minnesota town’s population is 350 times smaller than Detroit, it’s jaw-dropping that Warroad has produced more homegrown Olympians than you can shake a hockey stick at.

Warroad’s hockey pride can be linked back to its first Olympic athlete, Gordon Christian, who won a silver medal playing for the U.S. at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Italy. This was just the start of the Christian family’s strong hockey-influence on Warroad. In 1960, brothers Bill and Roger Christian won Olympic gold medals playing hockey for the U.S., and 20 years later, Dave Christian was a member of the “Miracle on Ice” 1980 U.S. men’s hockey team that brought home gold.

With gold medals earning them rock star status back home in Minnesota, Bill and Roger Christian, along with Hal Bakke, founded the Christian Brothers Hockey Company based in Warroad. The sons of a carpenter, the Christians began producing hockey sticks in 1964 using the slogan “Hockey Sticks Made by Hockey Players.” The company’s big break came in 1980 after Bill’s son Dave won Olympic gold as part of the “Miracle on Ice” team.

Thanks to free publicity from members of the U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team, sales increased approximately 40%, but by the mid-’80s, the Christian Brothers began to feel the squeeze of competition from Easton—a baseball bat manufacturer that expanded into hockey sticks. With some big-name endorsements and a profit margin of more than 30%, Easton slowly pulled ahead of the Christian Brothers, eventually leaving them in the dust. As hockey players shifted away from wooden sticks, the Christian Brothers could no longer compete and finally shuttered their factory in 2003.

After its factory, name and trademarks changed hands several times, the Christian Brothers’ tradition of made-in-America hockey sticks found new life in 2012 with BOA Athletics. After purchasing the Christian Brothers’ manufacturing equipment, Boa has continued producing high-quality hockey sticks, including the classic wooden sticks made famous by the Warroad Olympians. Operating alongside BOA, are Eleven Hockey and Olympus Athletics—founded by Warroad native Jay Fisher and James Marvin, Eleven Hockey began as a hockey R & D lab and private labeling company before morphing into Olympus, an online sporting goods retailer.

Hockey tradition in Warroad may have started with the Christian Brothers’ American-made hockey sticks, but it doesn’t end there. Since 1980, Warroad has produced four NHL players and two more Olympic silver medal-winning hockey players. Henry Boucha is a former NHL player and 1972 Winter Olympic Silver Medalist; Alan Hangsleben is a former NHL player; T.J. Oshie is a current NHL player for the St. Louis Blues; Gisele Marvin is a current member of the United States national women’s ice hockey team and 2010 Olympic silver medalist; Brock Nelson is a current NHL player with the New York Islanders.

During 2014’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Warroad has the opportunity to be the only town in America to be represented on both the men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams. Gisèle “Gigi” Marvin will be skating for the Red, White and Blue at the Olympics for the second time, while T.J. Oshie is in the running for his first Olympic appearance.

If anyone is keeping count—and many Warroadians most likely are—the fact that this small community of 1,781 has produced 9 NHL and Olympic-level hockey players over the past 50 years is amazing. Not to mention the dozens of Warroadians who have played outstanding hockey at other levels, and the local, made-in-America hockey companies Warroad has supported over the years. No, there isn’t something in the water. This is simply a small Minnesota town absolutely steeped in hockey tradition and culture.

Step aside, Detroit. Warroad, Minnesota is here to claim its title: Hockeytown, USA.

Annie Erling Gofus writes for Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her

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Ultimate Hockey Network

Hershey Bears Come Out of Hibernation for Shootout Win

Two hat tricks in one night is exceptionally rare in the hockey world, but the GIANT Center was treated to just that—or, at least a version of that—on Wednesday night. In addition to Evan Rankin’s three goals for the Syracuse Crunch, the Gordie Howe Hat Trick’s namesake was in attendance for Hershey’s 4-3 win over Syracuse.

Mr. Hockey himself witnessed the Crunch’s early lead over the Bears, and looked on as Hershey brought a victory home in an 11-round shootout. When told about Howe’s presence at the game Coach Mike Haviland said:

“That’s pretty cool. Certainly one of the best to player to ever play the game, so that’s pretty special.”

Hershey Bears Alternate Captain Tyson Strachan vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

Hershey Bears Alternate Captain Tyson Strachan vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

Slow Start Ends in Shootout Win for Hershey

After ‘Cuse lit the lamp 31 seconds into the first period, Hershey trailed until the third when, with 3:02 left on the clock, Brandon Segal’s wraparound goal tied it up with help from David Kolomatis and Nate Schmidt. After an unsuccessful overtime, Hershey and Syracuse faced off in a shootout that ran 11 rounds.

Ryan Stoa’s goal kicked things off, and was followed by Stan Galiev sinking one past Kristers Gudlevskis. Rankin and Cedric Paquette scored in the second and third rounds to tie the shootout. After seven rounds of shooters were denied by David Leggio and Gudlevskis,  John Mitchell scored in the eleventh round prompting the Bears to empty their bench for an on-ice celebration.

Hat Trick for Syracuse as Gordie Howe Looks On

Hershey’s win at home can’t overshadow Rankin’s extraordinary showing. After burying a shot 31 seconds in, the Syracuse ringwinger followed up with a second lamp-lighter in the first period and rounded off his hat trick 7:49 into the second period. Unfortunately for the visiting player, not a single hat was thrown on the ice in celebration. But perhaps tallying three goals in two periods with the legendary inventor of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick as witness was good enough.

Gordie Howe is a retired Canadian hockey player famous for his scoring, strength and lengthy career. Howe is the only NHL player whose career stretched between five decades, from the 1940s to the 1980s. A four-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings, he won six Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player and six Art Ross Trophies as the leading scorer. A Gordie Howe Hat Trick is achieved when a player scores a goal, records an assist and fights all in one game. It’s named after the infamous Howe who recorded his first namesake hat trick on December 22, 1920.

Howe attended Wednesday’s game with his son Mark Howe, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings. Discussing Howe’s presence at the GIANT Center added a level of glee to  post-game interviews.

“It’s pretty amazing that he’s still coming to all these games,” Segal commented with a smile.

Hershey Bears Julien Brouillette vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013 (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

Hershey Bears Julien Brouillette vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013 (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

Hershey witnessed an outstanding performance from the Nicolas Deschamps-Ryan Stoa-Segal line combination on Wednesday night.

“They cycle, they support each other down low, they hold onto it and they attack the net,” Coach Haviland described the trio. “They’re playing with confidence and they’ve been huge for us.”

“We’ve got some good chemistry going,” Segal said of his linemates. “We moved the puck really well down low. Just a matter of getting in there.”

Hershey Bears' Nate Schmidt and Goaltender David Leggio vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

Hershey Bears’ Nate Schmidt and Goaltender David Leggio vs Syracuse Crunch 18 December 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/Olympus Athletics)

“This game is a lot about confidence.” – Coach Haviland

After their win over Syracuse, the Bears are feeling confident going into this weekend’s match-up against the Worcester Sharks.

“The last couple games we certainly have showed a lot of character coming back, and when we play the way we know how to play, we can hem some teams in,” Coach Haviland explained. “When everybody’s on board and really doing the right things and playing the right way, we’re a tough team to defend in the offensive end.”

The Bears improve to 11-9-2-3 after Wednesday’s win over the Syracuse Crunch. Hershey meets the Worcester Sharks at the GIANT Center on Saturday, December 21 at 7:00 PM and on Sunday, December 22 at 5:00 PM.

Annie Erling Gofus writes for Olympus Athletics. Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at

Originally posted at

Bucks for Burpees: Open Athletic Awards Cash for Your Fitness

We could all use a little motivation when it comes to dragging ourselves to the gym. And what better motivator to set your squats into motion than bragging rights and cash? Open Athletic kicks fitness buffs into gear with online competitions that reward the fittest with cash and prizes.

Contests are posted online along with rules, video demonstrations and prizes. Think you can out burpee the best in four minutes for $400? Prove it! Anyone can enter their scores online, but video proof is needed to win prizes. Open Athletic challenges its community to not only beat their competitors, but also themselves—users are allowed to continue posting scores until they’ve entered a personal best.

And it’s not just the strongest who win, but also the most persistent. Open Athletic’s ranking system was designed to encourage and reward individuals who frequently participate in competitions. The number of contests entered is taken into consideration when points are awarded in competitions.

Overhead squats seem unappealing now, but throw the potential to win $600 into the mix and you won’t be able to put down the barbell. Open Athletics fosters a community where you can challenge yourself, challenge others and win cold, hard cash just for hitting the gym. Get involved at or let their active Facebook page motivate you at

Who knew squats could be so rewarding?

Originally published at

Sour Loss, Sweet Homecoming for Reading’s Cruthers

It’s hard for a losing team to find a lot of positives in a game that ended 7-2, but the one pro on a long list of cons was the return of the Reading Royals’ former captain and all-time leading scorer Ryan Cruthers. Donning purple and white for the second time this season and the first time at home since 2012, Cruthers and his teammates fell to the Fort Wayne Komets on Saturday night.

“It’s always hard when you’re down three-nothing early,” Captain Yannick Tifu lamented about the first period. “There’s no excuse. There’s no reason we should have been down three-nothing.”

The Royals left the ice at first intermission out-scored 0-3 and out-shot 4-14. And while the second period saw an uptick in pace against Fort Wayne, this momentum did not follow Reading into the third. After the Komets’ fifth goal lit Reading’s lamp, goaltender Brandon Anderson lost his cool and engaged in the first of three brawls in the last seven minutes of the game. These fights did little to re-charge Reading’s team—the game ended Komets 7 and Reading 2.

“We’re just in a slump,” Tifu told the press after Saturday’s loss. “I told the guys we just need to turn the page and be ready to work Monday morning.”

Reading Royals Forward T.J. Syner  faces the Wheeling Nailers in late November 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

The Return of a Familiar Face

“We’ve got 14 guys that initially started on our roster that are out,” Coach Larry Courville stated. Plenty of new names have been appearing on the Royals’ roster since the start of the season. In his second game with Reading, Degon dropped the gloves for his new team on Saturday, and Goalie Anderson was in the net for only the 8th time this season.

Among the new faces on the bench was a familiar one for fans at Santander Arena. Former Captain and all-time leading scorer Ryan Cruthers represented the Purple and White at home for the first time since he was traded to the Alaska Aces in March 2012 for Ethan Cox and future considerations.

“Well, you know he’s all-time leading scorer. We were forced to trade him because we weren’t great and he had some value within the league and we ended up trading him for two guys,” explained Coach Courville. “We brought him back for some short numbers… He’s got 5 points in two games. He’s gotta be pretty happy with his performance.”

Reading Royals Ryan Cruthers (Annie Erling Gofus)

Reading Royals Ryan Cruthers (Annie Erling Gofus)

Since leaving Reading, Cruthers finished the 2011-2012 season with the Aces and then moved on to the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. Most recently, he has been the Director of Hockey at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania where he manages over 85 kids in the Junior Royals hockey program. After working at what Coach Courville described as “basically a desk job” for the last six months, Cruthers has made a smooth transition back onto the ice.

“It was great, there was a great response. I know a lot kids who play for me are here, family is here, so it was great to be back,” Cruthers said.

Cruthers went on to explain, “Larry called me on Friday. We had talked all summer long, we knew this was probably going to happen, but we were waiting for the right time. And then he called me on Friday, I was away coaching and I told him I’d be there on Monday.”

When asked if his spot on Reading’s roster would last, Cruthers responded, “We’re taking it a day at a time right now.”

The all-time leading scorer for the Royals registered 167 points and 192 penalty minutes in 159 regular season games over three seasons (2009-12). Prior to turning pro, Cruthers split an impressive collegiate career between West Point and Robert Morris University. Before transferring to Robert Morris University, Cruthers was named West Point’s most Outstanding Freshman in 2004 after leading the team in scoring. He was named a captain as a senior at Robert Morris, and finished the season as a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award.

The Fort Wayne Komets 7-2 win over the Reading Royals was sour for a team struggling to maintain a steady roster, but it didn’t make Ryan Cruthers’s homecoming any less sweet.

“Hockey is a fun sport,” Cruthers said with a smile. “It was an easy transition. It was like I never left, to be honest.”

Originally published at

Annie Erling Gofus also writes for Olympus Athletics. Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at

High Heels on Ice: The Tale of a Female Hockey Writer

If this was Cosmo or Glamour, I’d start my profile of Erica Koup by describing what she wore to our interview. I’d write about her glamorous retro-style sunglasses and how effortlessly beautiful her long, curled locks were. I’d gush about how sweet and down-to-earth she was as we chatted candidly over salads at a Hummelstown gastropub. And, of course, I’d really focus on the salads, because what woman isn’t just wild about salads?

But this isn’t Cosmo. In fact, this might be the exact opposite of trashy websites that cover celebrity break-ups and bikini bod diet tips. This is a hockey blog, and Erica Koup is its stylishly sweet and whip-smart writer.

On any given weekend night in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you can spot a lone woman in the Bears’ pressbox. Where the NHL scouts end and the bloggers begin sits the founder and author of The Amateur Fan—a blog that focuses on some of Pennsylvania’s finest professional hockey teams. Eyes intently on the ice, scribbling notes and taking breaks only to inform the scout to her left exactly what’s wrong with the Philadelphia Flyers this season, anyone would be shocked to learn this isn’t Erica’s day job.

“I wanted to run for office and be a politician,” the former political science student admits. “I learned about hockey from my full-time job. I worked Hershey Bears games (as a college recruiter). The first game I went to I was like, I can’t believe you’re making me go to this… I had no idea what was going on.”

What began as an annoying job assignment morphed into The Amateur Fan, where Erica has been posting game analysis and opinions for over nine months now. And while falling in love with hockey was easy, finding her place in hockey media wasn’t as simple. As a hockey rookie and a female sports writer, it can be a struggle to gain credibility.

“I think you have to have a lot of guts (to break into the hockey writing field). You need to put yourself out there. And It’s so hard to. Especially as a female,” Erica said. “Because the guys are always thinking they know more than us, because why not? It must come with their genetics that they know more about hockey than females.”

Unfortunately, Erica’s struggle for respect isn’t unique.

Just 50 miles from Hershey, PA is Santander Arena, home to the ECHL’s Reading Royals. Among the standard male media members is Candice Monhollan who is entering her third season covering Royals hockey for various news outlets. With a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Candice is a professional sports writer who still faces dubious stares.

“It’s a constant battle being a woman in this field. Just when you think you’ve proved yourself, someone else comes out of the woodwork to attack your credibility,” Candice admitted. “The downside, to be honest, is being a female in such a male-dominated career. In certain leagues, I can’t go into the locker room and even some places (have) to change protocol because I’m around and that shouldn’t be the case.”

Any hockey player will tell you that thick skin is vital in succeeding in this sport. Sometimes you need to let a clean hit roll off your shoulders while on the ice, you need to keep your head up and focus on the game. This is advice a female hockey writer can also learn from.

“The first few times (I published an article), I asked my buddy, can you read this and make sure it makes sense,” Erica recalled. “I’m just nervous to put it out there and be judged by people who maybe know a little more about hockey than me.”

“No one’s ever said you don’t understand hockey, just the English language,” Erica laughed. After posting an article on Reddit, “someone said I used the word ironic wrong.” Thick skin is useful when dealing with critics, but love of the game is far more effective.

To be honest, I invited Erica Koup to lunch in the hopes of delving deep into the painful struggles of a female hockey writer. Instead, I discovered over the course of our three-hour-long meal that Erica has happily embraced the challenges of being a woman in this field, and her hockey obsession may have something to do with it.

“I don’t know anyone else who sparks up a conversation about hockey at the eye doctors,” Erica said with a smile.

Up to three times a week, Erica settles into her assigned seat in the Hershey Bears’ pressbox and takes in her surroundings—the Giant Center’s lively crowd, the banter of fellow writers and the swish of skates on ice. When I asked what her favorite part of the job is, Erica simply replied, “I really like watching the games.” Love of hockey makes sitting in cold arenas for hours so easy, and it makes a career in the sport so desirable.

“I really want to work in the front office somewhere. Maybe community relations for a hockey team,” Erica explained. “If I can still write, I would love to continue writing. I sort of fell into writing. I never saw myself in the media or press category.”

Despite facing occasional negativity, Candice also finds that the pros out-weigh the cons as a female sports writer. “I love being able to get paid to watch sports. It’s one of those jobs where you wake up in the morning and don’t regret having to go to work. I love having the ability to travel and meet so many people and I enjoy above all else getting to write and share with others the unique story of an athlete.”

With The Amateur Fan’s first birthday just around the corner, Erica has plans for her second year of hockey writing—expansion, promotion and maybe a trip up North to hockey’s motherland…?

“Yea, I really do think that Canadians are perfect. I love it,” Erica joked as she described a recent trip to Toronto. “I thought I was going to cross the border and it was going to be like Celine Dion and hockey players everywhere.”

Erica Koup: Fashionista, hockey writer, Canada’s number one. Obviously.

Erica Koup and Annie Erling Gofus in the Reading Royals' press room. (Annie Erling Gofus)

Erica Koup and Annie Erling Gofus in the Reading Royals’ press room. (Annie Erling Gofus)

Five Girlie Questions for a Girl About Hockey:

1. Do you love or hate hockey players’ mustaches during the month of Movember?
“I love them. I admire them from the pressbox. I really want to know who has the best mustache on the Bears team. Jeff Taffe can’t grow hair on his head, but he’s pretty solid in the mustache category. I like the handlebars, I think it’s a flashback to the 70s.

2. What’s your favorite hockey jersey?
“I really like the Reading Royals’ jerseys. I like purple and the lion with the crown. The throwback jersey the Hershey Bears wore—that was a really cool jersey. And I like the Avs’ jersey, I think they have nice colors.”

3. Who is your hockey player crush?
“The reason I became a Flyers fan was not because I knew anything about the Flyers, but because of Zac Rinaldo. Gabriel Landeskog comes in a close second.”

4. Would you rather your boyfriend have Brent Burns no-teeth smile or Steve Downie’s scary red post-Washington Capitals line brawl eyeball?
“Steve Downie. I didn’t see the red eyeball, but I’ve seen the developing black eye. It’s tough.”

5. What are your secrets to staying warm and looking cute at hockey games?
“Pants, nice sweater and heels. I stay pretty warm, but throughout the game it always gets colder.”

6. Puck Bunnies, thoughts?
“I don’t think I’ve run into any puck bunnies. It has to be real, because I hear it’s real, but I don’t have any thoughts on that… If you look cute going to the game, does that qualify you as a puck bunny?”

Annie Erling Gofus also writes for Olympus Athletics. Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at

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