Hamhuis works hard on skating
: Veteran knows he has to continue to improve every year
You could easily ice a touring team during the NHL lockout by flipping through the Rolodex of noted local power-skating coach Barb Aidelbaum.
So when Aidelbaum, the nation-ally certified 30-year practitioner of figure and hockey skating, marvels at the dedication of Vancouver Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis, it's not faint praise for a loyal student who first sought her guidance during his WHL days in Prince George.
It's the straight goods.
"He will probably get one extra contract at the end of his career just because he's such a student of the game," said Aidelbaum, who has schooled 59 current and former NHL players. "He works on every aspect of his game and he's a leader. People watch that."
Of course, that's music to the defenceman's ears. Hamhuis has four years remaining on his contract at a $4.5-million-US annual salary cap hit and by the time it expires, the 29-year-old Smithers native will be looking for that one last long-term deal. Judging by the offseason manner in which he pushes the training envelope, career longevity looks like a good bet.
After all, as his peers paraded out of a University of B.C. rink following a rent-a-skate session Tuesday that lacked any real pace or purpose, Hamhuis adjourned to another sheet of ice for an hour of power-skating instruction that will give him a leg up once the season starts.
That might be a while. On Wednesday, the NHL cancelled pre-season games through Sept. 30, wiping out two Vancouver games against Calgary and one each against San Jose and Edmonton.
"Skating is a huge part of the game and I'm certainly not the fastest or quickest guy in the NHL, but I'm trying to be," said Hamhuis. "There are huge advantages to being a good skater. You can get yourself out of trouble and create opportunities, and it's always a great way to start a season.
"Backward skating is a huge component. I have imbalances through-out my body that you focus on so they're not holding me back. Barb is innovative. She wouldn't do the same session with me that she would do with Alex Edler or Kevin Bieksa or anybody else. She looks at what I need, where my skating is at and where she can take it, and that's going to be different for everyone. It's customized for each player."
Despite an uncanny ability to quickly read the game, execute long passes and remain positional-ly sound while his partner - usually Bieksa - jumps up into the play, Hamhuis has his share of positional situations that have led to injuries. A hip check on Milan Lucic in Game 1 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final resulted in a sports hernia that required surgery and produced a groin ailment. Hamhuis also suffered two concussions in a seven-week span during the 2010-11 season, so any edge to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time is imperative.
"Little things you might not notice off the ice - the edging and pushing drills - they get exposed and it's good because you can work on them," added Hamhuis. "Being efficient in pivoting and not wasting steps and sliding where you should be pushing."
Aidelbaum believes because Ham-huis was doing whatever he could to improve for the 2001 entry draft in Florida - he was selected 12th over-all by Nashville - it should extend his career because of body awareness that started in junior hockey.
"He already had the vision of a 25-or 26-year-old pro," recalled Aidelbaum, who has had four sessions with Ham-huis this summer. "He's very smart. As he gets into his 30s, somebody is going to be challenging him - an 18-or a 22-year-old forward - and he just wants to keep getting better. We work on backward deceleration into backward acceleration and some-thing with a forward that I wouldn't spend much time on.
"When I say we're going to move laterally, with your left side as we go in a right-back knee over toe, he gets it right away. Somebody else might think I'm speaking a different language. He might need a little prod-ding to get him into that position, but as soon as he feels it a couple of times, he wants to repeat it 50 times and get it right."
As for those imbalances, they're no different than any other athlete who favours one side. Basketball players dribble with both hands and use both hips. Hockey players shoot left or right and that places loads and imbalances on the body.
"It's very common," said Aidel-baum.
If the lockout goes from weeks to months, the toughest challenge will be to stay motivated and in game shape. The Canucks played soccer Wednesday and will return to the ice today, but will obviously need to get more creative. Beach volleyball might be an option and the harder stuff might get passed up for the gym.
"Skating five days a week is going to get boring fast," admitted Hamhuis.
CANUCKS EMPLOYEES AGREE TO FOUR-DAY WEEK
Many of the questions around the NHL lockout are abstract.
This is real. Full-time employees of the Vancouver Canucks began working a four-day week on Monday with a corresponding reduction in pay.
"Everyone agreed, which is a testament to their character and commitment to the company," Canucks chief operating officer Victor de Bonis wrote in an email.
And a commentary on the cost of this lockout.
Response to the lockout has varied around the league. The most dramatic might have been in Ottawa, where the Senators laid off up to 12 people. A similar number were laid off in Florida. Washington, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Minnesota have yet to report any layoffs.
- Ed Willes
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