At 5-foot-9, 177 pounds, Chay Genoway
doesn’t look like your prototypical NHL defensemen.
But looks are often deceiving.
At the Minnesota Wild Development Camp, the recent free agent signee out of the University of North Dakota is doing what he can to show that height is just a number, and strength knows no limits.
Genoway’s off-ice strength testing has been as impressive as his coast-to-coast goal in Saturday’s scrimmage. Word has it that after piling up the most consecutive pushups among the prospects, he immediately started his pull ups and tallied the highest number of those.
“He is quite strong physically,” said Kirk Olson, the Wild’s recently hired strength and conditioning coach, whose first order of business was working out the prospects this week. “He has a low center of gravity and is hard to knock off his feet.”
If anyone knows size isn’t always relative to strength, it’s Genoway. The former UND captain is showing that he arrived at camp ready to make a run at a professional career.
“I’ve been doing the normal summer time stuff, like lifting weights and conditioning,” Genoway said. “But I also tried to get on the ice more than usual this summer so it wouldn’t be too strenuous on things like the groin or hip-flexors, like the ice can be when you jump right to it.”
In his first camp, at 23 years old, Genoway was one of the elder statesmen. His development as a player is advanced compared to his younger counterparts, and he knows the importance of making a good first impression.
“You’re here to develop, but people are always watching, so you never know and you want to be prepared as much as possible,” said the Swan River, Manitoba native said.
“Guys are trying to make a name for themselves,” Olson added. “Not only with coaches, trying to make a roster spot, but with teammates. The guys were trying to pull whatever they could out of each other, and Chay did a great job of that.”
Working with Genoway for less than a week, Olson noticed his off-ice habits.
“Chay works his butt off,” Olson said. “You can see that he takes pride his work ethic.”
For an undersized defenseman, self-determination and motivation is a necessity to excel in a game populated by behemoths. Genoway has been training at UND this summer and credits his time in college for helping groom him to make the leap to pro hockey.
“That place prepares you for the next level,” the four-time All Academic team member said. “I’ve been training there for the last five years and there’s always guys there that are pushing you everyday. It was a wake up call.”
Often, the most eye-opening challenge for college hockey players is adjusting to the higher speed of the pro game.
“It has been a really good pace; especially, considering it is the summer time,” Genoway said. “There are better players you’re playing with. You have to work a little bit harder to be in position.”
In addition to the boost in tempo, he also is trying to adapt to the subtle differences in style between the college and pro game. The camp is his first taste of what it will take to succeed at the next level.
“It’s a little more positional and structured than in college,” Genoway said. “So, I really have focused on positioning, being sound defensively and making a good first pass. And if that goes well, getting up in the play a little bit.”
Getting up in the play, as a blueliner, is something Genoway did better than most while at UND. In his senior season, he racked up 37 points in 36 games, leading the Sioux to the Broadmoor Trophy, awarded to the WCHA playoff championship, and a Frozen Four appearance. He also led the team as a two-year captain, something that was immediately evident to Olson.
“There are two types of leaders: The Ra-Ra types, and the lead by example types,” Olson said. “With Chay, you get the best of both worlds. He always leads by example, but can step-up and say something when it’s needed. He is the type of leader other guys gravitate toward.”
At Development Camp, Genoway led by example at the off-ice workouts and said the team building exercises during outdoor training along with the more traditional work out routines were ways to show other methods of staying fit.
“We’ve done a little bit of everything – running, weight training and conditioning – we’ve also done some off-ice training that I’ve never done; things meant to push you out of your comfort zone. I think it helps the guys grow because you might see some of these guys on your team at some time.”
Genoway is hoping that team will soon be the Minnesota Wild.