Kevin Bieksa was doing more pushups. His team lost 5-4 in a game of shinny Wednesday morning and his linemates, including Daniel Sedin and a handful of other locked-out NHLers and University of B.C. Thunderbirds, were at centre ice in Father David Bauer Arena, doing pushups.
Tanner Glass, wearing his No. 10 Penguins helmet, said, “Great game.”
Someone asked, “One more?”
They went three more rounds. Bieksa’s side won the series.
Next week on Oct. 17 at UBC, the Vancouver Canucks defenceman will host Bieksa’s Buddies, a charity game between hockey professionals, including Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Manny Malhotra, Mason Raymond, Max LaPierre, Cory Schneider and others, against the university’s men’s hockey team. Proceeds will support the Canuck Place Children's Hospice, Canucks Family Education Centre and the Canucks Autism Network.
The pro and varsity players shared ice time this week.
“We did didn’t have any fun at all,” said Bieksa, breaking into a grin. “When they first got on the ice and we went through the first drill, Dan Hamhuis said to me, ‘It’s nice to finally have a coach tell us what to do.’”
In the T-birds game of shinny, the nets were brought to the centre circle and teams of three lined up against each other. Players had to stay within a small zone, two outside the circle, one within but on his own side of centre. Reflexes were tested along with passing and stick work. They kept score.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Bieksa, wearing Canucks pants and helmet and a white NHLPA jersey with #theplayers written across the back. “It was a fun little skills game and obviously when the white team went up three nothing, they wanted to keep playing but some guys got a tee time.”
T-birds head coach Milan Dragicevic said the Canucks set a different tone at practice because they do everything at a quick clip.
“The pace picks up a little bit. I think our guys get very excited when they see NHL players on the ice because that’s for our guys, that’s their dream, to skate with those guys. It’s exciting for them.”
Dragicevic ran the practice, which was an optional skate for the T-birds after returning Tuesday from a 1-1-1 road trip to Denver, CO. He explained the drills using a blue marker to write on the glass.
“We’ve been running our own drills for awhile now and it’s getting a little monotonous,” said Bieksa. “To have these guys out here with some fresh drills and a little bit of competitiveness out there at the end was a lot of fun.”
Fun and games, sure, but there’s still a hockey game to play and UBC’s coach wants the win. Hosting the NHLers his own players aspire to be, Dragicevic said the T-birds can “absolutely, absolutely” win. “There’s a challenge for them,” he said, laying it out there for Bieksa’s Buddies. The game itself is a win for the locked-out pros, the T-birds, the fans and the charities, he said.
“We’re going to surprise a lot of people when they see us play,” said the coach. “It’s kind of like an all-star game for us. We want to put on a great show for the fans. We want people to see how skilled we are and the important thing is that it’s going to a good cause.”
Dragicevic said the pro players like Bieksa, Schneider and Raymond who played varsity hockey while completing post-secondary degrees will find it easy to respect the demanding life of the UBC student-athletes.
“When they talk to us, they understand the circumstance we’re in, rushing to practice and back and playing a couple of games a week,” said Jordan White, the T-birds starting fourth-year goaltender.
To compete with the Canucks and NHLers, White said the T-birds can’t flinch. “We’re going to have to be in game mode. We might have to take the body a little bit to intimidate them, push them into the corner because if we give them too much room, they’re going to put it between our skates.”
He’ll admit he’s a little intimidated, but White, a Canada West second team all-star with a .921 save percentage last season, is already taking cues from his opponent between the posts.
“If you watch the other guys, especially Schneids, you just learn to be really patient. They can pass the puck better than the guys on our team and in our league so when you’re out like that, you have to stay on your feet and be patient and read the play a lot.”
His assigned reading for next week: a chapter on the Sedins.