Keith Ballard demanded I look into a Jeff Vinnick photo that surfaced Saturday post-practice in Minnesota, because the conclusion you inevitably draw is false.
Take a look for yourself.
It looks like Ballard is in a hockey bag, in a garbage can. And that’s 100 per cent accurate – it’s just not the whole story.
A little background on Ballard: he’s a jokester. Last year in Florida, he and teammate Bryan Allen fooled guys so much that one day someone got them back by putting all the furniture from their hotel room in the bathroom.
“We had a bed frame and a remote left in the room, mattresses and everything else were in the bathroom – on a game day too,” laughed Ballard.
Ballard has brought that lightheartedness to Vancouver, although his pranks are much less severe. A few weeks ago, for example, he and Alex Edler waited for Kevin Bieksa to go into a meeting after taping his sticks for a game; they then un-tapped them all.
“Everybody is pretty capable of having fun and laughing at themselves, so that makes it really fun,” said Ballard.
Bieksa was the target of another prank Saturday while the Canucks got ready for an optional skate at Xcel Energy Center.
No Home Alone type battle plan with broken Christmas ornaments, paint cans swinging from the ceiling, tar on the stairs or a fan with feathers, Ballard took a much simpler approach.
“I decided to hide in his bag,” explained Ballard. “We put all his gear in his stall and I was going to hide in his bag and then when he opened it, I would scare him. We were bored; me and Edler were trying for most of the day to play a trick on Juice.”
As you can see from the picture of Ballard in Bieksa’s hockey bag, in the garbage, it clearly failed. Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows were responsible for that.
“It backfired when I got into the bag and Kes and Burr grabbed me after I had zipped it up and I wasn’t looking and stuffed me into the trash, which is just a garbage maneuver by them.
“It backfired a little bit, but that’s okay, as long as you write in your story that they didn’t stuff me into the bag. I went in on my own as part of a different prank.”
Thanks to Henrik Sedin and Edler, the Ballard filled bag was out of the trash and back in Bieksa’s stall when the defenceman was ready to get suited up for practice.
Then the plan backfired again.
“He crawled into my hockey bag there and thought for whatever reason I wouldn’t notice my bag being three times the size it usually is,” smiled Bieksa.
“I come over and looked at it and I see that obviously it’s huge, so I start kicking him and then I tried to pick him up and throw him in the garbage can, but he’s a hefty boy so it was hard.”
To clarify, Ballard is not slender enough to fit into a regular hockey bag, he grabbed a goalie bag and put Bieksa’s number tag on it.
Great in theory, the plan didn’t pan out how Ballard had hoped.
“When Juice came out of the trainer’s room, he just looked at the bag and was like ’who’s in there?’ He knew right away, it was kind of stupid. In my head it was going to come out a lot better.”
All in all, everyone had a good laugh, even if it ended up being at Ballard and not Bieksa.
“He’s a little strange,” laughed Bieksa, “he’s definitely the odd one out of the group, but he likes to have fun and he keeps guys on their toes and he’ll often make himself the butt of the joke to get a laugh for the boys.”
So is the prank worth retaliating?
“It’s not that type of thing, it’s something where I just laughed at him and asked him what he was doing. It was harder for him to get into there and lie on the ground with me kicking him, so he took a beating out of it.”