June 5, 2012

The Baillargeon Blog: A wild final day at the combine

By Robbie Baillargeon

Editor's note: Robbie Baillargeon (Enfield, Conn.) is a former Cushing Academy standout who shined for the USHL's Indiana Ice in 2011-12. Here's the final entry in his online diary, recapping his experiences on the last day of the annual NHL Draft Combine in Toronto.

 What a day! It was certainly a day I will always remember.

Robbie Baillargeon's final day at the NHL Draft Combine was a busy one. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Ice)

I woke up around 9:30 and headed downstairs to get some breakfast with Jon Gillies, Boo Nieves, and Brian Cooper. After breakfast, we headed up to the Reebok/CCM room and shot around for a little until they started to pack everything up. When we were done, I went back to my room and watched TV. I wanted to rest before I left for the testing. 

I watched TV for about three hours and then I started to get ready to leave. We had to be in the lobby 30 minutes before our medical testing started. When 2 o’clock came around, I hopped on the shuttle and headed over to the testing place which was at the Toronto International Centre. There were about 8 of us in our group. We got there and saw other players who already tested. We asked them how it went and all they had to tell us was that it was tough.

When we got in, we had to go through a series of medical tests first. We had to see three doctors and they had to sign off on our sheet. Once that was complete, we had to get our activity in our heart checked. For this test, we had about 10 pads put on our chest and with cords connected to them that ran back to a machine. We had to wait 15 minutes for it to be over.

After we were finished with that, we had our blood pressure checked and then had another medical test. This one was very “different.” We had to sit on our side and a doctor had to do an ultrasound on our heart for 20 minutes. This one took quite a bit of time. You just sat there while a doctor took pictures of your heart with the ultra sound. When she was done, another doctor had to come over and check them to make sure everything was all set. 

Once that was complete, I started the reaction tests. There were three reaction tests and I did very well on them.

When that was done, you got your picture taken and you were off. I was the last one to be done with the medical tests, but London Knights forward Andreas Athanasiou waited up for me. We got ready and walked into the strength room. 

This was unbelievable! There wasn’t a feeling like this ever! There was a ton of people everywhere. Scouts were lined up watching you and the press was all over the place. You heard people shouting at the players on the bikes and the TSN reporters in the back. I was excited and ready to get started. 

I filled out a paper and got started. I got through the first tests and did pretty well on them. During all the tests, I felt like the adrenaline rush just carried me through the whole thing. After I did the balance test, it was time for the bike tests. I heard stories of these, but I ignored all of them. I wanted too see what they were like for myself.

I got on the first bike (Wingate) and all of a sudden my feet were being duct taped onto the pedals. There were 4 commands: pedal, faster, faster, and go! I started pedaling and then heard the other three commands! I started pedaling as fast as I could for 30 seconds. People started shouting in my face, “GO! GO! GO! Faster! Faster!” It felt like forever, but then it was finally over. It didn’t feel so bad after then it hit me 2 minutes later. I felt light headed, dizzy, and nauseous.

I went to the waiting room, grabbed a water and put my head in the trash can. I bet you can guess what happened next. I drank some more water and then put my feet up to try and recover. We had a 25 minute break until the VO2 test. That 25 minutes seemed like the quickest time of my life. 

The next thing I knew my feet were being duct taped again to the pedals! I put the breathing tube in my mouth and started pedaling again. It got harder and harder quicker and quicker. Again, people were shouting in my face! “GO! PEDAL! KEEP GOING! DON’T STOP!” All of a sudden, after a certain amount of time, I was on my last energy level and my head went straight down. The next thing I remember is one of the workers pushing my chest back up. I pedaled some more and then I was finally finished! I was done with all the tests at the combine! 

I had a feeling of relief but also a feeling that I just accomplished something great. I grabbed more water and went to the waiting room to recover and to wait to do an interview with the press. 

After the interview, I got my stuff and got on the shuttle to go back to the hotel. It was about 5:30 when I got back. I showered, packed up all my clothes, and headed over to the airport. Unfortunately, my flight got delayed five hours and I didn’t get back home until 4:30, but I’m happy to be back home.

Thanks to everyone who read along and supported me through this terrific experience. It was truly a once in a lifetime trip that I’ll never forget. I had a lot of fun meeting new people, hanging out with friends, and seeing all the accolades the combine provided. Now it’s time to go rest and get ready for summer training. Also, great thanks to NEHJ for letting me write about my experience in Toronto. 

Take care, everyone!