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Ryan Spooner, Chris Kelly Check In with #BearTracks in Ottawa

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

KANATA, ON. — Somehow, even though he’s just 23 years old and even though he has yet to get a full NHL season under his belt, Ryan Spooner is already a veteran among the core of young Bruins players expected to take the reins in the near future.

Last season was Spooner’s coming out party of sorts. He was unhappy with his first stint with the big club at the start of the season, so when he got his second opportunity in February, he made certain to make the most of it.

And he did. Right of the gates, the Spooner we saw in February was different from the one we saw in October. He was more confident. He was defensively sound. And he played the way he knew he could play instead of worrying about the expectations that have seemingly stalked him since the Bruins selected him in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

For Spooner, the 2015-16 season will be different from the three pro seasons that preceded it. Now, Spooner’s coaches and teammates know what he is capable of doing on the ice. Now, they know he is worthy of a roster spot on an NHL team.

This year, he will be expected to seize a bigger role and run with it.

But first, there are a few more weeks of summer to train for what could possibly be his most critical training camp yet.

On Tuesday, the 2015 #BearTracks crew rolled into Kanata, ON., to pay a visit to Spooner and accompany him to an off-ice workout, where he focused on his strength training and explosiveness.

“It was a tough one today,” Spooner said as he drove away from Bell Sensplex, where he trains in the summer. “[I’m] going to go grab a bite to eat, probably just grab a salad and some chicken and stuff, and then I’ve got yoga in an hour and a half, which has worked for me.”

Such is a day in the life of Ryan Spooner, at least during the summer.

Yoga, somewhat unexpectedly, has become a big part of Spooner’s offseason training repertoire. Both he and his instructor, Hana Engel, agree that when he first started incorporating it into his routine, he was pretty tight and inflexible.

Fast forward to one year later, and it is a totally different story.

“For me, if I’m doing weights a lot, I get extremely tight,” Spooner said. “So the fact that I can come here and just kind of stretch out helps me a lot. I Googled the benefits [of yoga], and it said if you’re flexible, it makes you 50 percent stronger. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I’m definitely trying it out.”

Engel, who began working with Spooner last summer at Modern Body in Ottawa, said there is a substantial difference in Spooner’s flexibility now as compared to the end of last season.

“I remember when we were in child’s pose [last year] — when you kind of shift your hips back into your heels — his hips were flying up towards the ceiling; he couldn’t get them down just because his legs were super tight, I guess, from all the skating you do and all that kind of stuff,” Engel said. “Even mentally, you could tell he’s focused and he’s kind of able to calm down a lot better now.

“When we first started, not only was he super tight physically, but he was uptight in terms of not being able to stop his mind from kind of racing. Now, it’s kind of funny because I watch him, and he’s just completely relaxed, whereas before, he was all wired up.”

The benefits of Spooner’s somewhat unorthodox routine are twofold. Yoga helps him stretch out and stay loose, but it also gives him a mechanism for keeping his mind at ease.

That, in particular, can be useful for a young person dealing with the pressures of being a professional athlete.

Yoga is only a small component of Spooner’s offseason training regimen, which also includes plenty of work in the gym with Sports Performance Coach Brian Kehoe and, of course, lots of time on the ice.

Some players prefer to take a chunk of time off from being the ice in the summer, just to give their bodies and minds a rest. Not Spooner. He loves being on the ice, and that doesn’t change when the season ends.

When the Bruins’ 2014-15 season ended, Spooner reported to Providence to help the P-Bruins make a Calder Cup push. When that was over a couple of weeks later, he took less than two weeks off before getting back on the ice.

“I like to be on the ice a lot,” Spooner said. “Some guys I know don’t like to be on the ice — they kind of like take some time off — but I’ve always found that I like to be on the ice and I just stay with it.

“I went on the ice probably two weeks after the season, just for a couple sessions. Usually starting [in] mid-July, I’ll be on the ice two or three times a week, and sometimes [for] a couple hours per night, so that’s usually what I do. But in June and stuff like that, I usually just stay on once or twice a week.”

Summer is nice, but at the same time, it is news to Spooner’s ears that the new season is right around the corner. The team he is reporting to is a different team from the one he left back in April, but that is exciting. The change means there is a big opportunity waiting for him at training camp, and the sooner he gets started, the better.

Until then, though, you can find him at the rink.

Kells Checks In

Before Spooner’s yoga class began on Tuesday afternoon, he got a visit from a fellow Modern Body patron: teammate Chris Kelly, who also calls Ottawa home in the offseason.

Like Spooner, Kelly is eager to begin another season, but he is in awe of how quickly another summer has disappeared.

The Bruins’ offseason was longer than any of them wanted it to be, but the longer it lasted, the hungrier they became to make sure next summer is much shorter.

“It’s gone by pretty quick, I think,” Kelly said. “Obviously, when things don’t work out like you’d hoped and your summer is a bit longer, you’re always going to think, ‘Oh, this is going be an extremely long summer.’ But it’s been a good summer, I think. Getting back to being able to train for this length of time and enjoy time with the family — it’s been nice.”

Kelly has earned his veteran status with the B’s. He’s been with this team for 4 1/2 seasons. He won a Cup with this team. He takes his leadership role extremely seriously, especially this season, when he will be welcoming plenty of new faces into the fold.

Yes, this 2015-16 Bruins team will look substantially different from the one Kelly has been a part of since 2011. But there is still plenty to look forward to.

“Obviously a lot of new faces, and faces that have moved on, and yeah, you wish all those guys the best, but you’re also excited to meet new teammates and new friends,” he said. “From what we’ve heard of every guy, they’re excited to part of the Bruins, and we’re excited to have them.”

Though there are technically another couple of weeks until Kelly and his fellow captains rally the troops for a set of pre-camp practices, Kelly said he is halfway to Boston already — mentally, at least.

“My wife actually said to me the other day — ‘You’re already in Boston,’ because I’ve already started packing up the house,” he said with a laugh. “She said, ‘You’ve already moved down there!’

“I’m excited to get back, and seeing the guys again, and get back on the ice with everyone.”

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