Canadians get fit playing hockey

15 June 2012 10:19

The Stanley Cup has already been awarded but another fierce hockey rivalry is being played out in Sherbrooke, Que., this week as members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team do battle at their annual Red vs. White hockey camp. 

World Cup stars including slalom ace Mike Janyk, of Whistler, B.C., and downhill sensation Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., are among those taking part in the week-long camp, which features hockey drills and scrimmages in the mornings followed by traditional dryland training in the afternoons. All the hard work will culminate in a 60-minute winner-takes-all game on Friday, when a whole season’s worth of bragging rights are up for grabs.

“It’s pretty close between the two teams but it all comes down to Friday,” said slalom specialist Trevor White, of Calgary, Alta. “They are long, long days and the body’s barely holding together. The hip flexors, all those muscles you didn’t know you had, are pretty tight! 

“Friday will be a full game - three periods with referees. You get to play for (the win) and bug the guys about it all year on the road.”

The camp, which is in its fourth year, is organized by Canadian Alpine Ski Team coach Serge Dugas and features guest coach Jean-François Grégoire, director of recruitment for Quebec the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. 

In addition to Janyk, Thomsen and White, Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., and Phil Brown, of Toronto, Ont., are taking part. Filling out the rosters are coaches including Pete Bosinger, head coach of the men’s team, speed team coach Rewk Patten, technical head coach Kip Harrington and conditioning coaches Jamie McCartney and Matt Price, who played four years of Canadian university hockey and one season of pro in the Central Hockey League.

“It’s going very, very well,” Dugas said. “Physically it’s draining but it gives the guys confidence and builds team spirit. 

“Ben is a good player – he loves the game. Trevor, without skating too much during the winter and especially coming off injury, I’m pretty impressed with him. Phil Brown is a young guy who’s a really good athlete and a good player.

“They are all fighters and competitive – they want to win. You can tell they are all elite athletes. Mike only plays hockey during the camps but he’s an amazing athlete – competitive and focused.

“They are all looking forward to Friday and the official game. White is leading 2-1 (in the annual camp-ending games). You don’t want to lose because you don’t want to be bugged about it for the rest of the year.”

Cook, White, Thomsen and Janyk are all members of Team Red – so-called because they wear red jerseys. 

“Red has changed (over the years) but I think we’ve got it this year,” Janyk said. “This is our fourth year and it’s a fun little training block. I get to work on my hockey, which needs some work! It’s also really good conditioning and it’s another way of really challenging yourself. Learning new skills is good for the mind as well as the body.”

Of the athletes attending this year’s camp Thomsen might be the most talented hockey player, but he’s modest about his abilities. 

“I’m OK. I would say I’m alright for it being my second sport,” Thomsen said. “Phil is pretty good. Trevor has good hands. Mike’s got good defence.

“It’s extremely tiring to do a full morning of hockey and then a full session of training but it’s good to get away from everything and be in a different team dynamic. It’s also good to get out there and have some fun and push the coaches around!”

The camp is taking place at the impressive Complexe Sportif Thibault GM facility in Sherbrooke. The team is training there during the day and staying in nearby Magog, Que.

“It’s an unbelievable facility,” said Cook. “We couldn’t believe it when we walked in. The town we’re staying in has been great, too.

“It’s been a pretty awesome camp. It’s definitely the hardest week of the summer but it’s also the most fun.”

Cook, a resident of Ottawa, Ont., is a Senators fan, Toronto native Brown cheers for the Maple Leafs and Whistler’s Janyk is a diehard Canucks supporter. Thomsen’s allegiances, however, lie a little further afield.

“My team is the Chicago Blackhawks. Everyone always asks me why,” said Thomsen, who claimed his first World Cup podium in the downhill in Sochi, Russia, last season. “Three or four years ago they had the most Canadian players – just a lot of young guys who worked hard and played with a lot of heart. That’s kind of how I do things.”

Brown is the only athlete on Team White’s roster. When he showed up to camp without a white sweater, Dugas tried to help him out by giving him his white Habs jersey – which didn’t go down too well.

“I offered my Montreal Canadiens jersey to Phil but he said, ‘I’m sorry; I can’t wear that – I’m a Leafs fan,’ ” explained Dugas.

Brown said he thought about wearing the jersey – for a few seconds, anyway.“I picked it up and I looked at it for a while but I couldn’t do it,” said Brown, who played hockey regularly when he was growing up before he took a break to focus on skiing.“This week has been super tiring, actually, but a lot of fun. I think I hold my own out there.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good chance on Friday. They are getting Matt Price on the Red team and he will add a lot of skill but we’ve been working together really well. I think we’re a little bit faster; we’ve got a good shot.”

Following the conclusion of the hockey camp, athletes will return home ahead of another block of dryland training. The first men’s on-snow camps are due to be held in Europe in July. Members of the ladies’ team are currently taking part in centralized dryland training in Calgary and Canmore, Alta. They are also due to leave for Europe next month to begin on-snow training.