If you’re looking to book a trip to Mexico, don’t bother Kevin Bieksa.
What he’s not is a travel agent.
So, he doesn’t have Mason Raymond’s itinerary; or Alex Burrows’s schedule; or the location of the next David Booth hunting romp.
Instead, he has to have trust in them.
The labour standoff has begun its most critical stage. This, as they say, is where it gets real. A deal in the next few weeks, and we could see NHL hockey in December.
The rumour buzzing among the players is that a training camp will be an intense two weeks, where players skate every day, with as few as two preseason games.
It promises to be cruel, exposing any players who don’t show up in peak condition.
“If they’re not, it’s on them,” Bieksa said. “It’s going to show.
“But our team, more than any other, is dedicated to fitness. We always have been since I’ve been here. There’s been a huge emphasis. We have personnel in positions other teams don’t to make sure we have an advantage in nutrition, and health and fitness.”
As much as the players want this lockout to be about the collective, it’s not. The choices they make are individual ones. Some choose Europe. Some, like a group of Canucks, have decided to stay in their home NHL cities. And others are sitting in a tree stand, hunting large mammals.
“He actually works out a little too much,” Bieksa said of Booth. “This is probably a good lockout for him, to get some rest.”
Fitness has never been an issue for Booth. It’s his puck skills people worry about.
But, inherently, Bieksa, the Sedins and others have to have blind faith in Booth, and the rest of their teammates who are scattered across North America and Europe. They have to hope those who aren’t playing or in Vancouver are preparing for the season as if they are still getting paid.
“I don’t have any concern about the guys who are here,” Daniel Sedin said. “Those are the only guys I can answer to.
“We have put a lot of emphasis on being well-conditioned throughout the year. We travel so much and we don’t get a lot of sleep. So we have to be in top shape. Players who play for the Canucks are used to it.”
The core group of players who stayed in Vancouver have created an interesting dynamic during the past two months. They’ve established a hub of home schooling, where players like Bieksa, Chris Higgins, Manny Malhotra, Dan Hamhuis and the Sedins have been teaching each other their unique training techniques. It’s a petri dish for working out which never would have materialized without a lockout.
“We are all pushing each other,” Bieksa said.
“Everyone is good at their own thing. I’m good at what I do. But that’s why I have really liked venturing out into what they do, seeing what they’re doing differently.
“I’m trying to get better at the longer distance running the twins do.
“And I’m doing steps and some of the core-explosion stuff Dan [Hamhuis] likes to do. Everyone is good at different things, and that’s why it’s been so productive training together here with different guys.”
The Sedins love their long-distance running, normally reserving their sprinting for bikes. But they’ve been dabbling off the menu, for example trying some of the Higgins’ workout. He is about quick, fast footwork. He’s big on steps and short sprints.