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Anderson expects Montreal to live up to hype

by Shawn P. Roarke

"Montreal, in anything it hosts -- Grand Prix or whatever -- usually does a good job. Plus, the League is a top-notch organization and I am sure everyone will do a great job."
-- Shawn Anderson

Shawn Anderson knows that the city of Montreal will exceed all expectations when it hosts the 2009 NHL All-Star Game this weekend. After all, he has seen the city rise to the occasion again and again.

"This is such a big hockey city anyway," says Anderson, who played in 255 NHL games with Buffalo, Quebec, Washington and Philadelphia. "Everybody here is excited about the game. The kids are excited; the minor-hockey community is excited.

"Montreal, in anything it hosts -- Grand Prix or whatever -- usually does a good job. Plus, the League is a top-notch organization and I am sure everyone will do a great job."

Personally, Anderson can't wait to rub elbows with the NHL hockey community that will descend upon Montreal this week to celebrate the season's first half. Anderson may have played less than 300 NHL games, but he spent 18 years playing pro hockey in North America and Europe.

To say he will know a few people that will be on hand this weekend would be an understatement.

Anderson, the fifth pick of the 1986 Entry Draft by the Sabres, last gave the NHL a shot in 1999 when he tried out for the Dallas Stars. The Stars had just won the Stanley Cup the season before and the dressing room was filled with legends like Mike Modano (who will play for the Western Conference in this game) and Ed Belfour.

"I was in awe," Anderson says of that time. "I'm sitting in the room and I'm thinking I'm older and I started playing before these guys, but I'm a huge fan of the NHL and a huge fan of the game and I'm just in awe.

"After you leave the game, you have a new appreciation for it and what you accomplished and the people you met along the way."

Now, Anderson is ready to rekindle past hockey friendships and forge some new ones.

"It'll be like getting back into the game for a weekend," he says.

But don't be fooled. Anderson never has left the game. He retired from pro hockey in 2004 after seven seasons in Europe, mostly in Germany. But he started a hockey business -- Hockey Specific Training -- upon his return to Montreal.

Hockey Specific Training is a comprehensive program to train youth hockey players on and off the ice. The program has serviced more than 5,000 clients in its five-year existence.

The idea for HST was born during the last few years of Anderson's European odyssey. Training for hockey had changed and become more specific, and Anderson was among those in the vanguard.

While playing in Germany he hired a personal trainer in Montreal -- Ozzie Strbac, a former World Football League player -- who was into sport-specific training. In Anderson's case, it was concentrating on the explosiveness and endurance necessary for hockey.

"The results I got from it in the last four years were amazing, but I was at the end of my career, unfortunately," Anderson said. "But I told Ozzie that when I retire, we're bringing that program back to Montreal and start a business."

And that is just what Anderson has done. Today, the Quebec Midget AAA programs are full of his players. Stefan Chaput, a draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes playing in the American Hockey League, is HST's most famous client, but many more are in the pipeline, according to Anderson.

"It's more what's to come than who we have placed recently," says Anderson.

And it's the same case for Montreal and the All-Star festivities -- it's about what is to come this week in Anderson's hometown, not the successes of past events.

"I'm sure Montreal is up to the challenge," said Anderson.

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