While many Vancouver Canucks have spent this off-season lounging around trying not to break a sweat in search of uber relaxation, Kevin Bieksa has been exerting himself.
The brute defenceman, who didn’t give himself much of a break after the playoffs ended before getting into his summer training, has been working with the most energized trainer he’s ever had.
There’s been a lot of gain for Bieksa, but also some pain.
Then again, when trying to keep up with a toddler, pain is to be expected.
“He really loves hockey,” said Bieksa, of his nearly 2-year-old son Cole, his training guru.
“He’s got the mini-sticks going a lot, probably four or five hours a day. My back gets sore after I play for a couple of hours in a row with him, so we’ve needed a steady release of grandparents coming over to play with him.”
Ain’t no workout like being a dad – or so Bieksa is discovering.
The great thing about the summer the 28-year-old has been living is he’s been surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and almost every other family member you can think of back in his home province of Ontario.
A family tree of babysitters or not, there’s nowhere else Bieksa would rather spend the dog days of summer than with his loved ones.
“My wife and I both grew up here so both our families are around here so this is where we like to spend the summer,” said Bieksa, who will return to Vancouver this fall to patrol the blueline.
“I’ve always liked to be pretty low key in the summer just because the winter is so hectic with everything and I’m travelling so much. It’s nice just to wind down in the summer and relax and see your family.”
With such a zen-like approach to the off-season, it’s no surprise that Bieksa also spends much of his time on the links.
An avid golfer with close to 15 rounds under his belt already, Bieksa describes his game, in one word, as inconsistent.
Good one round, bad another; sounds familiar.
“My golf game is okay, it could be a little bit better but I have a lot of fun out there, that’s for sure.”
Bieksa’s fun has included three major golf trips this summer; the first was a yearly vacation he goes on every summer with his dad, brothers and a bunch of friends.
“There are about 12 of us that go in total. We drive to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan for a few days and that’s always the highlight of my summer. That was right after the Stanley Cup finals this year, we also schedule it then, just in case.”
Back-to-back weekends in his old stomping grounds of Bowling Green, Ohio and Winnipeg, Manitoba concluded his out-of-province rounds of golf this summer.
“I headed back to Bowling Green for an alumni golf tournament and it was the first time I’ve been back since I left there,” said Bieksa, who spent four seasons with the CCHA's Bowling Green State Falcons from 2000-2004.
“It was surreal being back; just driving down the street and all the memories coming back was strange. After you leave you start having a bunch of different things happening in your life and I lived in Winnipeg for a few years and then Vancouver, so I had forgotten a lot about my time there.
“The memories came back quickly when I was there and I got to see a lot of my close friends from school.”
The visiting didn’t stop when he made an appearance in Friendly Manitoba to attend Josh Green’s wedding. Bieksa and Green were teammates in on the Manitoba Moose before playing a pair of seasons together for the Canucks.
While in Winnipeg, Lee Goren, another of Bieksa’s former teammate, was hosting the inaugural Winnipeg Sun Lee Goren and Friends Autism Invitational golf tournament. The timing worked out, so Bieksa teed off for charity against the likes of Calgary's Dustin Boyd and Detroit's Derek Meech.
Now that August is under way, Bieksa admitted that he’ll soon put his clubs away for another winter. While that would make some golfers frown, he prefers hockey to golf any day and he’s getting antsy for a new season to begin.
“I was on-line last night before I went to bed looking at some of the highlights from last year’s season and a couple of the playoff games there against Chicago. Watching that I started to get the itch and get the sweats; I’m anxious to start the year for sure.”
Getting back into an on-ice rhythm won’t be hard for Bieksa as he never stopped skating after the season ended. He laced them up once a week in a four-on-four league with friends during May and June before July hit and he amped up his sessions to three or four a week.
Mix that in with the work he’s doing with his trainer Cole and Bieksa may be spent before the season even starts.