When Jordan Eberle goes home to Alberta in the offseason, he generally trades pucks for picks, putting down his hockey stick and picking up his guitar.
That's one way the Islanders forward chooses to unwind after a rigorous season on the ice, strumming chords in South Calgary with his wife, Lauren, and friends.
"I play a lot more music in the summer than in the winter," Eberle said. "I have a pretty nice setup in our house. I have about four or five guitars. Actually, a couple of my buddies here who are my best friends, that seems to be our weekend routine. We'll sit around and jam and play a little bit. I definitely play a lot more guitar in the summer just based on having more time and I think life is a little easier going."
Eberle is no stranger to big stages. The winger has played nine seasons in the NHL, won gold in 2009 and silver in 2010 at the World Junior Championships and he took home a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2015 World Championships. The thought of playing guitar in front of a live audience? Not in his playbook.
"To be honest, I think I have stage fright," Eberle explained. "I've been asked to go up on stage and play a few times, but I think it scares me a little bit. It's funny, you go play hockey and play in front of thousands of fans, but as soon as you have to do it in front of music and people, I don't know what it is. I'm not built for that. Maybe one day I'll conquer that fear."
Fortunately for Eberle, his wife is a professional music teacher, so she can help. Lauren owns and operates, Miss Lauren's Music Studio, where she teaches piano and singing. She's taught private lessons via skype for clients in Calgary since moving to New York and has also added a few mini Islanders to her queue. Lauren was the one who originally bought Eberle his guitar and it's become a shared passion and hobby for the husband and wife.
"She's been [teaching via Skype] both years since we've been in New York," Eberle said. "Obviously, with moving she had to leave a bunch of her students in Edmonton. She teaches a lot over skype. She's teaching a lot of the guys kids. She's teaching Andrew Ladd's daughter and son as well. She's starting to make some clients in New York and get some of the guys' kids on this team. We have a lot of kids on this team so hopefully she can fill her time by doing that."
The couple kicked off the summer by purchasing a home on Long Island before returning to their offseason home Calgary. The remainder of the summer featured a week in Hawaii for Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' wedding, kayaking and hiking around Calgary and coaching his own hockey camps in Calgary from August 6-9 and in Regina from August 19-21. As training camp approaches, they're planning to come back and settle into their new house as they welcome their newest addition next March. On Friday afternoon, the Eberles took to Twitter and Instagram to announce their pregnancy.
On the ice, Eberle has picked up his usual offseason training. Eberle trains in Calgary where a sizable group of professional hockey players also return for the offseason, including Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green and Ottawa Senators forward Max Lajoie. (Thomas Hickey used to be a fixture of the Calgary offseason scene - and had trained with Eberle since they were 14 - but he's since taken up summer residence on Long Island.) While the Calgary group hasn't created an official summer league like Minnesota's Da Beauty League or Montreal's MTL Pro League, they skate nearly every day and replicate game-like scenarios.
"We have probably 15 or 20 guys and the majority of us are in the NHL and we do skate together on a daily basis here in Calgary," Eberle said. "It's big enough where we have enough guys, it's just a matter of coordinating it. We actually do have a really good skate here. That's obviously big. You can only do so much skill stuff yourself. You need guys to skate and battle with and make it as game-like as you can to get yourself ready. We've got a good group here in Calgary."
Eberle is looking forward to rejoining the group on Long Island, especially after he, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee all committed to long-term deals, preserving the core of the team.
"More than anything with [the Islanders], the biggest thing was trying to keep everybody, and I think we did a good job of that," Eberle said. We're coming into camp just trying to build off of what we did last year. Making it to the second round was obviously an accomplishment. We were disappointed that we weren't moving on and getting swept there. If you look back at the whole year of where we were pegged, we surprised a lot of people. I think the biggest thing next year for us is it's not going to be easy; we're not going to surprise anyone. It's going to be harder. We have to exceed the level of competition, the level of execution that we had last year to have success this year."
After the sting of a second-round sweep to Carolina subsided, Eberle reflected on the positive takeaways of the 2018-19 season. The shifty playmaker heated up at the end of the season and carried that momentum into the postseason, leading the Isles with nine points (4G, 5A) through eight playoff games. Eberle also came through in clutch situations, as the right-shot tied Anders Lee with five game-winning goals for the team lead. Eberle is using his recent success as extra incentive heading into this season.
"Finishing the way I did was a big part in obviously wanting to stay an Islander," Eberle said. "The way I finished the year and going into the playoffs I felt like that was some of the best hockey that I've ever played in my career. As soon as it was done, I wanted to be able to do that for a full year."
"I know it's obviously tough when you have four or five months ahead of you when you're not playing or not competing, but it's just a matter of trying to keep your mind right and your body and just staying healthy," Eberle added. "At my age, you also just want to maintain what you have and move from there to get stronger and faster and feel good out there. It still is going to take a couple more weeks to get myself ready to go. I like the way I finished the season and I want to be able to carry that into next year. I just want to replicate the confidence that I had going into playoffs."