The sun wasn't even up yet but a few members of the Oilers certainly were as the clock struck 6 o'clock on Monday morning at the Alberta Legislature grounds.
Defenceman Andrew Ference, forward Sam Gagner and Head Coach Dallas Eakins joined nearly 200 other enthusiastic, early-rising Edmontonians for a November Project workout — a trend that is taking the capital city by storm thanks to Ference.
November Project was started in Boston in 2011 by two of Ference's friends as a away for the former NCAA Division 1 rowers to stay in shape during the winter months. The initiative involves people partaking in various forms of physical activity in public locations throughout the city. Thanks to word of mouth and the viral power of social media, what started as a workout for two buddies turned into a city-wide trend that attracted hundreds of participants.
"It morphed from them wanting to stay fit and being accountable to each other, to a half community-building, half fitness-oriented initiative," Ference said, adding the CrossFit and yoga communities in Boston really embraced the project. "It's about getting back to making face-to-face contact with people and making real friendships."
Upon signing with the Oilers in early July, Ference brought November Project with him back home to Edmonton. Using his 80,000 @Ferknuckle Twitter followers, he sporadically posts a meeting location somewhere in Edmonton and hosts an early-morning workout with anyone who chooses to show up.
About a dozen eager individuals came out to the first few fitness sessions, but attendance has exploded recently, including Monday's get-together that included Eakins and Gagner.
"You get to know the people living around you and meet people who have things in common with you, get active and participate in something real," he said. "It feels really good. It's energizing to be surrounded by people who are enthusiastic about doing something active with no costs and no strings attached. People have really responded to it. You see a lot of smiles, and almost every single person comes back."
The new recruits enjoyed their first November Project experience and praised Ference for his work bringing the community and fitness initiative to Edmonton.
"We want our team to inspire our community, and Andrew has come in here and done that right away," Coach Eakins said.
"This is a pretty special project that brings people together to get active," Gagner added. "It really speaks to Andrew's character."