WINNIPEG – The Sochi Olympics offer an opportunity to shine for a select few NHL players but, for the majority, it’s a chance to recharge their batteries and spend quality time with family.
Oh, and especially for those on the Canadian Prairies, it’s a chance to use their 10 days off to get warm.
Given the quirky weather that has hit North America it’s hard to say how far south he has to go, but Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd plans to find some sun somewhere.
“I’m just going to get away with my son and my wife, try to get to some warm weather for a bit, out of the deep freeze, and just try to relax and regroup,” he said. “We’ll have to fly a little ways but I’m sure we’ll find somewhere.”
The Olympic break starts Sunday and NHL action isn’t slated to resume until Feb. 25 with Carolina visiting Buffalo although players must report for practice Feb. 19. For those in Sochi, the Olympic schedule begins Wednesday with Canada’s first game going Thursday.
Montreal Canadiens defenceman Francis Bouillon plans to use his time off much like Ladd.
“I’ll just be spending time with the family, heading down south,” he said. “Not Florida this time, we’re thinking the Dominican Republic.”
Calgary defenceman Chris Butler knows this will be his last chance to relax for some time.
“It gets tight after the break, we’ve got a 16-game month,” he says, noting the schedule was pretty packed before the break as well. “We’ve been every other day here for a while now.
“You kind of feel like a newborn at a certain point—you just eat, sleep, eat, sleep, play hockey.”
So Butler expects to make few plans for his down time.
“I’m going home to St. Louis for a week and relax,” he said. “I literally have zero plans. I’ll hang out with my family, see some of my buddies.
“It is nice to have time to just unwind. I think you’ll find a lot of guys will just get away from the game and relax and enjoy time with family and friends. We’ve had a pretty hectic schedule and obviously going on the road before the break, guys are just going to want to hang out with their families.”
For Henrik Sedin, time off came as a bit of a surprise and a disappointment. The Vancouver forward hasn’t healed enough to accept his invitation to play for Sweden at the Sochi Games.
“I’m going to stay at home,” the Canucks captain said Thursday night. “I need rest and I need rehab, and then a few days of working hard, and then I’ll be back to being 100 per cent.”
Rookie Flames centre Sean Monahan is just 19 and the Brampton Ont., native is looking to reconnect with his family.
“The biggest thing for me is family time,” he said. “I haven’t seen my family and my grandparents for a long time.
“It’s going to be special for me.”
Montreal Canadiens centre Ryan White is also sticking close to home.
“I’ll be heading home, getting some rest, spending some time with the family. I’ll hopefully get a little ice session in there too,” said the native of Brandon, Man. “I’ll be watching the Olympics too.
“I like to take the time to enjoy them while they’re on television.”
Calgary defenceman Kris Russell says he’s just going to take it easy. And considering he’s back in his home province after stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues, he doesn’t have far to go be with family.
“I’ll go away for a little bit and then I’m going to go home to Caroline for a few days,” he says of the tiny village near Red Deer, also the childhood home of former world figure skating champion Kurt Browning.
“I’ll be up there for a few days to hang out with family and stuff, it will be good. There will be chores to do.”
The NHL schedule takes its toll on players and rest is a good thing but they also don’t want to lose their edge during the break. It’s a balancing act.
“(I’ll) just get some rest and use the break as a chance to get the body re-energized,” says Jets forward Devin Setoguchi. “I’ll probably head home for a little bit and see the family but stay with the program as much as I can.”