• VIDEO: Girardi Highlights
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
It's the experience of just about every new parent: Feeling one's way through those first few sleep-deprived months of the baby's lifetime, learning round-the-clock routines required to care for an infant, and eventually reaching a point where a total change in lifestyle begins to feel normal, made all the more worth it by the undeniable joy involved.
Even NHL players go through this transition, as Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi
can attest. Girardi, 26, became a father last March, and he's spent his entire off-season in the company of his expanded family, which now includes 5-month-old son, Landon.
"It seems like the time is just flying by," said Girardi. "He's eating solid food now, so the process is really going. He's almost getting some teeth in, and it's all new for me and my wife, so it's been great so far this summer, from that perspective."
|Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi's steady play in his own zone has been a dependable constant for the past four seasons and makes him one of the key members of the team's core of young talent. |
Girardi, who grew up in Welland, Ontario, has been at his home in nearby Niagara Falls, where his weekdays involve intense workouts to prepare for training camp, and his evenings and weekends are all about family.
"I go to the gym every day, and I kind of miss him until I get back home," Girardi said of his son. "So it's fun when I get back to give my wife a little break and take care of him when I get home. It's been so busy just bringing him to all the family events and stuff like that, because everybody wants to see him. We're only here for a few months, so everyone is trying to get a look at him."
Entering his fifth NHL season, Girardi knows he is in for another rigorous training camp under Blueshirts head coach John Tortorella. Losing sleep to help raise a baby, however, hasn't detracted from his training in any way. In fact, the added responsibility might be helping him improve his workouts.
Recognizing how important training camp was to the Rangers' 7-1-0 start last season, Girardi said he has been doing everything he can to make sure he arrives at the Madison Square Garden Training Center in the best shape of his life.
"No matter what you do during the summer and how hard you train, nothing is like Torts' camp, really," he said. "I was prepared for it last year, but no matter what you do it's just so different when you get out there with the guys. It's probably one of the hardest things I've ever done, for sure.
"You try to do some hard skates on the ice during the summer, but it's not the same as when he's out there and the coaches are out there and everyone else is out there. The summer skates around here are not the caliber of what I will experience in camp, so I try to push myself as much as I can, and I've found that I try to do a little extra when my workout's done. Just to kind of get ready for that skating and the running."
Of course, the second-happiest news of 2010 for Girardi was how quickly he signed a long-term contract to remain with the Rangers. Within eight days of his previous contract's expiration, he had a new deal, and he couldn't be more pleased.
"I wanted to stay in New York so bad, and I was really happy that we were able to get something done for a long term," Girardi said, noting he felt a big boost from the confidence Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather has shown in him. "I really wanted to be a Ranger, and I want to be a Ranger forever. I don't want to go anywhere else. Everything worked out great for my family and me, so I'm just really excited to get back and start a fresh year."
Echoing the words of all 17 returning Rangers veterans, Girardi said missing the playoffs last season was a particularly bitter pill to swallow. The experience, however, has provided a unifying motivation to prevent it from happening again. Watching last year's playoffs at home, Girardi said he also realized just how wide open the "second season" can be once a team gets there.
"It has been a good summer, but it's also been a long summer. I've been working out already for two or three months so that's usually your summer right there, but now I have another month of working out," Girardi said. "I'm ready to get back now and get after it. It's a motivation for sure when I look at our tough finish last year and how far Philly actually went after winning that last game. That's a lot of motivation for me and I'm sure it is for the rest of the guys, too."
There's no mistaking Girardi's enthusiasm when he talks about how eager he is to reunite with his Rangers teammates at the MSG Training Center in the weeks ahead. He's excited about the incoming players, too, but feels one of the best things about the team's off-season moves was an overall commitment to bringing back the bulk of a team determined to author a much happier and exciting outcome this time around.
"There are a couple of new faces, but I'm also glad the main group is still together," said Girardi. "We can try to jell and improve every season going forward."