Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle were tasked with a challenge by coach Travis Green this past summer: come up with a team-building activity for an off day in Banff, Alberta, between games in Edmonton and Calgary.
A little bit of research later and the choice was clear: visit a Dude Ranch. Warner Stables in Banff was booked and an unforgettable Canucks team building experience ensued.
There was a lot of horseback nervousness from the get-go, especially from Troy Stecher.
"I was really nervous," laughed Stecher, following practice Friday in Banff. "My mom got bucked off a horse when I was young and broke her ankle. The horse got stung by a bee and knocked her off. So that was in the back of my mind the entire time because that was my first time getting on a horse. Don't get bucked, don't get bucked, don't get bucked.
"Nothing went wrong, I was very thankful. It was really easy, you just sat there, the horse put its head down and walked. It was the blind leading the blind. I'd do it again, 100 per cent."
Video: Horseback Riding in Banff - Team Bonding
Stecher wasn't the only one intimidated with horseback riding. Elias Pettersson had never even seen more than a wee pony up close. But it wasn't his cautious approach that caught the attention of his teammates. It was his blue Italian slip-on loafers that had to be swapped out for runners.
"I was helping Petey out at the beginning, he was a little intimidated," explained fellow first time rider J.T. Miller. "It's hard wearing Gucci and Louis Vuitton in a stable full of horse poop, but he did really good."
"Petey needed help for sure," added Sutter. "Petey dressed like he was going to a wedding for a horseback riding event. A couple guys walked up with some pretty fancy Italian shoes on and some of the girls working there were laughing. It was pretty hysterical. A lot of guys were out of their element and I think that's what made it so fun."
If you've never been horseback riding, how would you know what to wear?
"I had a big parka on, so I was going to the arctic, I definitely wasn't horseback riding," joked Stecher. "Some guys were in team hoodies, so they were definitely under dressed. Then Edler, who never has a hair out of place, was in red flannel and fit in right away."
Nearly everyone we talked to mentioned Oscar Fantenberg and that he needed to be interviewed about the horseback riding experience. Turns out the newcomer is about as close to a Hippophobiac (fear of horses) as one could be without having ever seen a horse in person.
"It was fun, but scary," said Fantenberg. "It's maybe not my thing."
Thankfully the 27-year-old defenceman still got a lot out of the experience.
"It was good to get to know guys. You know them on the ice and talk to them at the rink, but obviously to see the guys outside of the dressing room was nice. To get to know the person behind the gear was nice."
So are you guys cowboys now?
"You could say that," smirked Miller. "We're in Calgary a couple more days, then back to reality."