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Calm before the storm

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks

Kevin Bieksa has had a difficult few days.

It’s been all down hill for the Vancouver Canucks defenceman since scoring the double overtime game-winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to lead the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 17 years.

Bieksa has celebrated scoring one of the biggest goals in franchise history by organizing, packing and lugging boxes around as part of a family move.

Don’t panic, Bieksa isn’t leaving town, just relocating at the worst possible time.

“It’s been terrible actually,” laughed Bieksa when asked how the last 36 hours have treated him.

“I’m in the middle of a move, I’ve been taking loads up and down the elevator; it’s been busy. It’s good we didn’t go out on the road so I can stay home and help pack and move.”

So that’s how NHLers spend their days off.

Bieksa said it hasn’t been all that bad, he’d rather be spending quality time with his family but just getting the chance to spend any time with them at all is a bonus.

It’s been all about hockey for the past seven weeks for the Canucks, so right now it’s all about family.

Cole, Bieksa’s three-year-old son, is still on a high from his dad’s big goal, even if he doesn’t quite understand what it means and how it’ll go down in team history. There was a lot of confusion surrounding the play that led to Bieksa ripping a bouncing point shot past San Jose’s Antti Niemi, but Cole knew what he saw.

“He’s been at most of the game all season long, but he didn’t make that one, he wasn’t feeling too good, but apparently he was watching it at home with our nanny,” said Bieksa.

“Nobody really knew what happened at first, but he was one of the first people who probably saw it and said ‘that was my dad, he’s the one that scored’ and then nanny Lindy was probably ‘no, I don’t think so,’ and he said ‘yeah, yeah, it was number three, number three, I saw it.’”

Cole was right and Bieksa said it’s been great sharing this once-in-a-lifetime playoff run with his son, family and the team’s extended family.

Post-game on any given night, there are always ankle biters in Canucks jerseys, boys and girls, typically with mini-sticks, running around in the locker room, hallway and in the gym. The next generation of Canucks are easily identified by the last names on the backs of their jerseys and, in Cole’s case, by a booming slapshop that mirrors his dad's.

“I think this team is so special, there’s so many kids on the team and after every game, win or lose, all the kids come into the dressing room and run around and Sami’s kids are probably old enough to understand, most of our aren’t, but I think they still get the feeling around the room and it’s pretty special to be a part of this.”

Sami Salo shared the media spotlight with Bieksa Thursday afternoon and he too expressed an appreciation of how great it is to have loved ones along for this rollercoaster ride.

Salo’s biggest fan is no longer with him in the usual sense of the word, however.

“My dad passed away in ’95 when I started my pro career in Finland and we ended up winning that year, he wasn’t around at that time and it would have been nice to share that memory with him,” said Salo.

“He’s up there watching right now and enjoying all these moments.”

Salo has also been spending the bulk of his time with family, just being Sami the dad and husband, not the hockey player. He’s actually been the one attending hockey as a fan.

“It’s been a little crazy, but I tried not to change anything,” Salo said of the last 36 hours.

“I’ve been hanging around with the kids and obviously they’re all excited and I haven’t really changed my routine, I’ve been to my son’s practices and my stomach is not full yet, so I haven’t enjoyed it too much.”

The best is, hopefully, yet to come for the Canucks, who will hit the ice Friday to begin preparing for either the Boston Bruins or Tampa Bay Lightning. By then, the thrill of competing in the Stanley Cup Final will be displayed less in exuberant smiles and more in intense game faces.

That is unless Bieksa’s grandparents leave him any more heartfelt messages - he can’t help but laugh at those.

Bieksa’s grandparents were the first to call him after Game 5, despite it being nearly 1 a.m. back home in Ontario.

“The first message I got was from them, congratulating me and wishing me good luck and ‘Don’t hurt yourself Kevin,’ ‘be careful,’ ‘we love you.’ That was the first and probably the most important message I got.”

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