By Jeff Paterson
In many ways, life in the National Hockey League has been everything Alexander Edler
thought and hoped it would be.
He's living the good life and getting a great opportunity to play with and compete against some of the best players in the world. But the 20-year-old rookie, currently in his second stint of the season with the Canucks, is also finding out that the life of minor league call-up on an indefinite stay in the NHL isn't as glamorous as some might think.
"I got the call and I had 15 minutes to pack and get to the rink in Winnipeg, so I just threw some stuff in a bag - a little bit more than last time because we were on the road when I got the call the last time," the soft-spoken defenseman says in an interview after a recent morning skate at GM Place. "I had nothing (in terms of clothes) the last time I came here, so I have a little more this time."
But not knowing how long he'll be up with the big club makes life a little tougher for Edler.
"I still haven't used all the clothes I brought, but yeah, if I stay longer, I'll probably have to go out shopping a little bit," he says with a laugh.
Edler's happy to be in the NHL and he's glad the Canucks are in a busy stretch of their schedule. That way he can spend much of his time on the rink and not worry about finding things to do with his idle time. Such is life for the youngest member on a hockey team filled with veterans who have wives and families to go home to after games and practices. Edler goes back to the downtown hotel he's calling home for the time being.
"It gets pretty boring sometimes. I stayed at a hotel for like two months at the beginning of the season before I got an apartment in Winnipeg. There isn't much to do," he says of hotel living. "Maybe I go out to eat or shopping or something. I just try to make sure I'm rested."
Even if he doesn't have a home of his own here in Vancouver, Edler has looked very much at home on the Canucks blueline and in the NHL. Poised and steady, he's given the Canucks serviceable minutes in his limited time with the big team averaging more than 13 minutes per game and picking up his first big league assist in just his second career game (November 6th vs Dallas).
The latest in a long-line of successful Swedes to don the Canucks colours, Edler says his fellow countrymen have tried to ease his transition from the American Hockey League to the NHL. They've also helped him fill some of the abundant idle time he finds he has on his hands once the work day is done.
"I've been to Olly's (Mattias Ohlund) place for dinner the last time I was here," he says. "The Swedish guys are great. They're easy to talk to. I've been out for lunch with the Sedins and Markus keeps saying he's going to invite me."
Edler says he's not likely to remind the Canucks captain of that promise, but admits he'll gladly accept if the opportunity arises. In the meantime, the native of Ostersund, Sweden will continue to occupy himself with a steady diet of restaurants, movies and trips to the mall.
"The hotel is next to Robson Street and there's lots of restaurants and there's a theatre so there's everything you need," says Edler, who has a pretty good grasp of his temporary hometown. "I was here a couple of times last year and then for training camp and we were here for the World Juniors last Christmas. I know the city, at least I know the downtown a little bit, so I won't get lost."
Edler is trying to make the most of his time here and says he hasn't spent any time worrying or wondering when he'll be reassigned to the farm. With Rory Fitzpatrick (foot) still on the shelf for a few more weeks, it doesn't appear Edler is going anywhere any time soon.
"It's day to day all the time. I don't want to think any further ahead than this and I just want to do the best I can every day and I hope I play well so I stay as long as I can," he says.
And so far, so good for the Canucks 3rd round pick in the 2004 draft at least as far as the on-ice aspect things is concerned. The home life, well that's still a work in progress.
"It's a little bit better now because I have an apartment room, so it feels a little more like home. I have a fridge in my room, so at least I can eat breakfast at the hotel," he laughs. "After the start the season and living in a hotel for the first two months of the season and all the road games, you get a little sick of hotels. But it's okay."
As Alexander Edler
has quickly discovered, a little boredom in the hotel room at the NHL level beats the comforts of home in the minors any day.
Jeff Paterson is a Team 1040 broadcaster and a regular contributor to the Georgia Straight. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org