OKANAGAN VALLEY, BC - On Thursday morning, the #BearTracks crew wound through the roads of The Okanagan, not far from the city of Kelowna in British Columbia.
It marked the second leg of our trip, after visiting with Milan Lucic where he grew up in Vancouver to kick off the journey.
As we navigated through mountains and hills, with lakes in full view, our jaws just about dropped. The scenery was breathtaking. It would serve as the backdrop for our first time meeting the newest Bruin, Jarome Iginla, who was signed as a free agent just under a month ago, on July 5. And just about a month from now, he'll be gearing up to move his family East to Boston.
From when he first arrived at the park to meet us, through the duration of his two-hour outdoor workout, Jarome was all smiles, and unequivocally inviting.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to come out here in The Okanagan," he said, of the amazing views that surround his summer home (Jarome is originally from Edmonton, about eight hours to the Northeast, but has spent offseasons near Kelowna). "It makes it a lot easier and a lot more of enjoyable to be in an atmosphere like this."
He ran through sprints after sprints, racing with his younger brother, 23-year-old Stephen, who lives just down the road from the power forward and has been training with him all summer.
"It’s great with my brother out here - they live close, just a couple of doors down and we’ve been training hard for the last couple years, so it’s great that he’s helping me out," said Jarome.
Brotherly competition, bred since a young age? Not a bad way to ramp up the intensity.
"We can't run the first sprints together," laughed Jarome, "or else we'll start racing each other right away and run the risk of pulling a muscle."
Alas, they warmed up with solo sprints, before getting into the heat of the session.
From the first few moments we met the pair, you could immediately see the camaraderie. The competitiveness was on display from the start, and the joking (and jabbing) back and forth between sets.
"He got a little sore today. 'Had some shin splints,' he said and also, I think he went out a couple nights ago - a little too hard, you shouldn’t do that," laughed the lecturing Jarome, who also joked more than a few times to Stephen that he was tightening up with the cameras around.
"We go pretty hard trying to beat each other for sure. Today, I think he got me, but usually, it’s pretty neck and neck so it’s fun. It makes it a better workout, having that extra push trying to win."
It's not just about the competitiveness, though. The way the duo sprint, they line up side by side, both facing backwards, alternating who makes the first movement off the start per heat.
Jarome said it helps his hockey instincts out on the ice.
"It’s reactionary - it's like on the ice, being able to go off of somebody, because when the puck’s going, it just goes, and it’s not just hearing, you know? You can do whistles, you can do 'Go!' [for sprints], but it’s nice to do it visually."
Right now, Jarome is in what he labeled a "regeneration week" of his offseason routine, with this outdoor portion of the roughly four-hour long workout consisting of sprints two days a week, and cardio another two days. After a few intense weeks, the goal of this one is more about recovery.
It, uh, didn't look too much like recovery to this former athlete's eyes! But, of course, all you have to do is put it into the context of the upper echelon of a professional athlete like Jarome Iginla, and the exceptionally high level of intensity and standards under which they operate.
That type of work ethic and attitude has all the makings of a role model for younger players - and for someone closer to home.
"Growing up, it’s nice to have someone so close you can really learn a lot from. It helps me grow and helps me always try to push and be a better person," said Stephen.
"It’s definitely pretty amazing to see every day. There’s no off days pretty with him. He comes out every day without fail and goes 100 percent. It’s pretty impressive to watch."
"He’s definitely a competitor."
That competition then carried into the weight room, and after seeing just a glimpse of Jarome in his element, I don't doubt that we'll see that same hunger and drive carrying into the Fall with the spoked-B.