By Jeff Paterson
The Vancouver Canucks are hockey players. That's what they do. But ask around the dressing room and you'll find that just because they play the sport for a living doesn't mean that they are all consumed by the game.
Oh, they all love what they do and know that hockey is a huge part of their lives and has provided them terrific opportunities to make oodles of money and see many of the great cities of the world. But unlike many fans that can't get enough hockey to fuel their passion for pucks, a number of Canuck players admit to needing separation from their sticks and skates. That's why the handful of players canvassed after a recent practice say they don't watch nearly as much hockey on television as some might expect.
"I don't watch any unless I'm around the rink. When I'm at the rink I like to watch a hockey game -- come in early, stay late, watch the highlights, stuff like that but as soon as I get away from the rink I like to turn the page," says defenseman Willie Mitchell. "I like to get away from the rink. As much as I love hockey I think a healthy balance is good. It keeps you hungry. You want to go to the rink and you don't want to be hockeyed out."
Fellow blueliner Mattias Ohlund shares Mitchell's viewing habits when it comes to watching hockey on the tube. You might find him flipping past the sports channel to see what's going on around the NHL, but you won't catch him on the couch waiting for the puck to drop.
"I watch a lot of the highlights obviously, but I can't remember the last time I sat down and watched a whole game. Saturday night, like everyone else, if we're not playing I'll have the TV on and watch a little, but I'm not going to sit down for two and a half hours. But I do enjoy watching highlights," says Ohlund, who knows he spends enough time around the rink and has to keep the peace at home. "But most guys have wives and kids who aren't that excited about you watching hockey."
Brendan Morrison falls into the category of guys for whom family has taken priority over watching whatever is on TV. There's simply too much going on in the Pitt Meadows native's household these days to be worrying about catching a game on television.
"I'll be honest, now that I have three kids and lots of activity around the house, I don't get a lot of time to watch when I'm at home. Before we had kids, I watched all the time but since the kids, it's tough to get it in," he says with a laugh. "I'd say I watch it more on the road. If I'm on the road, in the hotel room, I'll usually have the game on. That's not to say I won't have it on some times at home, but I don't get a chance to sit down and watch it. I'll usually turn it to NHL On the Fly and just catch highlights."
Like so many these days, Morrison opts for a quick check of the internet if he wants to know what's happening around the NHL. But on the occasions he does have to watch a little hockey, the Canucks centre says it's next to impossible to simply sit back and enjoy a game.
Morrison says he finds himself watching games as if he were preparing to play the teams on the screen.
"Being my profession, you try to watch guys and learn things. Other times you're watching as a fan and sometimes you become a fan and start critiquing other guys. Then it sinks in like: 'That particular play isn't as easy to make as it looks,'" he admits. "You've been in that situation and it's easy just to say 'make that play' but when you put yourself there you can relate to what those guys are going through." Kevin Bieksa
says he gets enough hockey from games, practices and the intense video sessions the Canuck players go through preparing for their opponents. Once he's done at the rink, he's not rushing home to watch games on TV. In fact, he'll readily tell you that even if he wanted to watch other games around the NHL he couldn't. Unlike many of his teammates, the rugged rearguard doesn't even have the Centre Ice package.
"I'll watch Hockey Night in Canada, but I don't really like to watch games every day. I like to take a few days off from hockey. When I was a kid I always used to watch it and even at college in the States, Hockey Night in Canada was the only thing we got. So I watch a bit, but not a lot now," he says. "We usually watch a few games when I get to the rink before the games. We usually watch the Eastern Conference games -- a period or two of that -- but I don't really watch at home at all."
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at email@example.com