Training camp can be a stressful time. Veteran players are battling to make the NHL roster and solidify their spot on the depth chart, while younger ones are trying to break into the league and make a strong impression that might help them later in the season or in future camps.
Fishing, on the other hand, is bit more relaxing as it can just be a line in the water and a waiting game to see if the fish takes the bait—though, it can be just as intense when a big fish is hooked on the other end.
|Duchene (left) and Winchester (right) hold up a pair of bass they caught almost simultaneously on Aug. 3 |
So when Colorado Avalanche newcomer Jesse Winchester and veteran Matt Duchene met up for a morning fishing trip on the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, Canada on Sunday, Aug. 3, the new teammates were able to get to know each other and build chemistry in a more calming atmosphere before camp begins.
And they do have chemistry with their love for hockey and fishing.
"Fishing is one of the most relaxing things you can possibly do, and when you’re passionate about it, you can definitely bond over it with another guy," Duchene said. "We talked fishing probably just as much as we talked hockey."
So how did this fishing excursion between two players that had never met before come about?
From a tweet Duchene sent two days earlier.
Duchene, 23, was in Cornwall, Ontario to attend his grandfather's 80th birthday and learned that one of his younger cousins had been skating with Winchester during the offseason. He sent a tweet to Winchester on Friday night just saying he was in his "neck of the woods," and Winchester quickly responded with a question of if Duchene brought a fishing rod with him.
"I think he’s as die-hard a fisherman as I am," said the 30-year-old Winchester. "We both jumped at the opportunity to get out together, not really having met each other before and then he was willing to be up by 6 a.m. to go, so I was like anybody who’s that die-hard is a friend of mine.”
Winchester grew up on the St. Lawrence River in Long Sault, Ontario—the next town over from Cornwall—and said he found that fishing is a perfect fit to balance his time away from the rink. He goes out on the water three or four times a week in the summer and just relaxes with his girlfriend, family, friends, or his dog Sunny.
"It keeps me fresh and relaxed. I just love spending time outside and on the water," Winchester said. "I’ve come to take the fishing part not super seriously in one respect but seriously. I just love to do it, and I love to figure out the game out there. It’s just relaxing and time well spent for me.”
|Duchene holds up a four-pound largemouth bass he caught with Winchester on the St. Lawrence River on Aug. 3 |
Duchene and Winchester went out for largemouth and smallmouth bass on this day, and after six hours on the water they ended up catching a total of 14 of them (Winchester 8, Duchene 6). They released all the fish back into the river, but not before taking some photos with a few of them.
Both players have a different specialty when it comes to the fish they usually go after.
Duchene does more walleye and lake trout fishing, while Winchester goes out for more bass and muskies. Winchester's first musky he caught was in the summer of 2012, and it was also probably his biggest, just shy of 52 inches and 40 pounds.
But while they go out for different types of fish, the two players' love for the sport made it easy to exchange information and best practices for each species.
"I was telling him about how I fish by hand with copper line for lake trout, and he couldn’t believe that," Duchene said. "He was telling me about how he fishes musky. You just kind of gather information from each other. We learned a lot I think in just talking about fishing for different species and stuff like that. We really talked all day. There wasn’t really a quiet moment."
Winchester joins the Avalanche this season after signing a two-year contract on July 1 and will likely add some depth to the team's third and fourth lines. He has spent most of his 285 career NHL games with the Ottawa Senators but played last year with the Florida Panthers, tallying a career-best nine goals while also adding nine assists.
Duchene will be entering his sixth season with Colorado and will look to build on his team-leading and career-high 70-point campaign from a year ago.
It will be back to business on the ice in a few weeks for training camp, but when Winchester arrives in Denver he'll have already built camaraderie with at least one of his teammates.
"It was nice to meet a new teammate in a different situation, one where we're totally comfortable and relaxed," Winchester said. "We found a common bond right away and just had a great time on the water. It was a great morning. The weather was perfect. It was awesome.”
|Jesse Winchester holds up one of his prized muskies he caught on the St. Lawrence River on July 27, 2014 (From @Jwinch17). |