Komets, fans, trying to find restful sleep patterns

Fort Wayne Komets forward Garrett Thompson. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

Playoff hockey games are all about passion, excitement, energy and drama.

And when they are over, it’s almost impossible for fans — and especially kids on school nights — to settle down to sleep. Now, imagine how hard it is for a player who has been jacked up on caffeine and adrenalin for three hours or longer to fall asleep.

As an example, the first two games of the ECHL’s Western Conference Finals ended near midnight, Fort Wayne time, on Saturday and Sunday. Game 3 on Wednesday, will start at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. Who needs a sleep pattern?

Coming down from all the excitement is something fans and players have in common after playoff games. Players may not have to get up in time to be at work by 8 a.m. the next morning, but they usually arrive at the rink by 9 a.m. for practice.

As soon as the celebration or mourning after a game ends, players start trying to wind down. Once they get back to wherever their home base is after a game, the players may talk to a roommate, call family, meet in the bar for a beverage, watch a movie, or play cards or something on their phones. There are no easy ways to relax after the intensity required by playoff hockey.

After the Komets needed double overtime to beat Cincinnati in Game 1 during the first round, the players were asked over the next couple of days how long it took them to unwind and get to sleep that night. Remember, there was another game the next day so no one could use any kind of sleeping pill. They couldn’t afford to be drowsy the next day.

“I was so exhausted last night it was kind of easy,” forward Garrett Thompson said. “I like to cool down here (in the locker room) and let my body temp drop. By the time I leave the arena, it doesn’t take me too long to get some food and rest.”

Most players said they couldn’t fall asleep until three or four hours after the game. Coach Gary Graham eliminated the morning skate, allowing his players to sleep in and get as much rest as possible. If there is a morning practice, almost every player takes a pregame nap after lunch. That’s especially true for road games.

During the regular season, the team usually rides the bus to road games during the afternoon and everyone sacks out. During playoff games, the Komets travel to the city the day before a game so they can maintain their regular routine as much as possible and sleep in their hotel before games.

No matter the location, it’s always a challenge to get enough sleep. Bodies are sore, beds are sometimes strange and there’s the constant need to hydrate to get ready for the next game.

“I was definitely exhausted, but you struggle to fall asleep after games like that because the adrenalin is so high,” forward Shawn Szydlowski said. “I think it’s easier on the road just to go right back to the hotel because you have nothing else to do. It’s pretty simple to pick up food and just go back to your bed.”

Trying to sleep after losses is tricky, especially for younger players.

“The worst ones are the ones when you play bad because you run the plays in your head,” defenseman Bobby Shea said. “You try to check yourself because the next day you have to forget about it, but those are the worst nights to try to sleep.”

Which is why the naps are so important.

One of the perks of playing in Fort Wayne, with its central location, compared to other teams in the Central Division, is that after most road games the Komets will ride the bus home, giving them time to unwind after a game. Even the use of sleeper buses in recent years only helps so much.

“You are crammed on a bus,” defenseman Jason Binkley said. “To go home and be in your own bed beats a sleeper bus any day.”

The only thing that makes the process easier? Wins are always easier to accept than losses.