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Justin Bourne’s Blog: The summertime grind

Justin Bourne played 16 games with the American League's Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2007-08 (Photo courtesy of Justin Bourne)

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Justin Bourne played 16 games with the American League's Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2007-08 (Photo courtesy of Justin Bourne)

Alright, so it’s summertime.

It’s the absolute slowest point of all things hockey – the draft has happened, free agency’s over and even Sean Avery hasn’t done anything newsworthy in weeks.

As hockey drifts from the fans’ minds, it’s starting to pour into the players.

This is the exact time of the year when guys start to think about gearing up. Most of the guys I skate with in the summer stop drinking come Aug.1, right through ‘til the end of training camp.

This grind, the one that takes place in July and August between your ears, might be tougher to fight through than the playoff push.

It’s sunny and bright, the patios are bumpin’ and girls’ attire is barely appropriate. How do you talk yourself into going indoors to a gym?  How about into an arena?

The motivation in the playoffs is obvious: You’ve come this far, it’s Lord Stanley’s Cup and the year is almost over.

But for many teams, the summer grind is when Stanley Cups are won. I know that’s a gross cliché, but starting the year in tip-top shape is absolutely crucial to personal success throughout the season. 

More often than not, injuries happen when you’re tired – you lessen the odds of that happening by coming to camp in shape. A good early showing can move you up on the depth chart, past another forward on the team. That can mean better linemates, which can mean more points, which can mean more money. Being underprepared can have the opposite effect.

From the fringe NHLers on down, most players don’t know what city they’ll be living in, who their friends will be, or if they’ll be in good enough shape come training camp. Every day you're striving to be stronger, faster and better, but you're never quite sure if it's going to be enough."

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As a fringe guy, I was on the ice all year. Maybe I took three weeks off after the season, but there I’d be three weeks later, out of guilt, at a game of drop-in, co-ed hockey, sweating out the post-season parties.

As not-so-much-fringe-guys, fellow Kelowna shinny-ers Dany Heatley and Brett McLean don’t so much as look at ice until August.

And they don’t do it in an I’m-so-good-I-don’t-have-to kind of way, but in an I-work-so-hard-off-the-ice-because-the-talent-is-clearly-there-on-it type of way.

Heatley is a great guy, but just an awful shinny player. I’m convinced he should be out with me all summer. Last summer, during his first time playing, he stepped on the puck while on a breakaway and fell. He’s the only guy I know willing – no, dying – to take full-on ceiling-scraping slapshots at any 15-year-old female goaltender we’ve commissioned to come out so we could avoid the misery that is shooter-tutordom.

All I’m saying is, while the hockey fan hibernates, the hockey player is on the move.  They’re in their toughest fight of the year – the one versus summer. 

Beach vs. squats. Boat vs. lunges.  Golf course vs. spin class.

It’s an investment you have to make to succeed. Make the deposits now and the withdrawals happen come April. And ask any of the Penguins – the dividends can be pretty damn sweet.

Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. He will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com.

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