Canadiens forward Brandon Prust poses with Liam Hepburn, a cancer survivor, at 2012’s Prusty 4 Kids charity golf tournament in London, Ont. This year’s tournament will be held July 29 at Redtail Golf Course in Port Stanley, Ont., in support of the Prust-supported Kids Kicking Cancer program at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre.
Photograph by: Cynthia Moore
MONTREAL — There are many who are spending much time speculating, even fretting about the next captain of the Canadiens. But veteran forward Brandon Prust suggests that none of those gravely concerned are the players who actually wear Habs jerseys.
“I know that all of Montreal and all of Habs Nation is worried about it, but I know the guys in the dressing room aren’t,” Prust said Wednesday.
The captaincy was left vacant on July 1 when Brian Gionta, who wore the C for four seasons, left for Buffalo and a three-year contract with the Sabres.
So before the 2014-15 season begins, the Canadiens will name their 29th captain or, less likely, will decide to go with three A-crested alternate captains, as they did for the first time in franchise history during their 2009-10 centennial season.
“There are obvious captains on this team but I’m not sure what they have planned,” Prust said from his hometown of London, Ont. “That’s up to the coaching staff and management, to decide who’s best for the job. But there are guys in the room who could wear the C and a bunch of guys who could wear the A. We’ll wait and see.”
Like probably most of his teammates, Prust is back in training for the season ahead, having taken 10 days off after the Canadiens’ May 28 playoff elimination.
Working four or five days a week in the gym and outdoors, dividing his time between his strength and conditioning trainers Carter Walls and Dave Moore, the 30-year-old will step back onto the ice beginning next week for “some stickhandling and skill stuff.” And then skating will begin in earnest early in August with fellow pros in London.
Prust missed 11 games early in the season with a separated shoulder, then seven and 12 games after the Olympic break with a twice-torn oblique muscle, the latter two injuries separated by a four-game return.
“It’s all good now,” he said. “As soon as I got home after the season, I started working out. Usually I take more time off but with the oblique injury this year, I really lost some strength and I wanted to get it back.
“I did a lot of (weight) lifting when I got home to get that strength back. It was one of those years. I didn’t want to come home and take too much time off because I missed a bunch during the year, and late in the year. My body wasn’t too (beaten up) so I didn’t need to take three weeks off.”
This will be Prust’s third year in a four-year contract he signed in 2012, but what should be his first “normal” season; his first was abbreviated by a lockout, the second punctuated by an Olympic break and three injuries that cost him 30 games.
“It will be different but normal, what we’re used to,” he said. “Everybody has the same schedule, we’re all on same page, doing the same thing. There are no complaints, we take what’s given and go with it, make the best of it.
“I’m already looking forward to getting back and making a big impact this year.”
Of more immediate concern to Prust is his July 29 Prusty 4 Kids golf tournament, the second such biannual charity event that began in 2012.
Played at the Redtail Golf Course in Port Stanley, Ont., the tournament is an important fundraiser for Prust in his efforts to benefit the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre.
Prust helped introduce the Kids Kicking Cancer program to the hospital in the fall of 2012, an initiative that helps young cancer patients deal with their disease and treatment of it with personalized martial-arts classes.
“Going into children’s hospitals and seeing these kids is what drew me to this type of charity,” Prust said. “The kids didn’t do anything wrong, they didn’t do this to themselves. It’s terribly unfortunate what some of them are going through. Maybe they don’t even know the extent of it.
“What they’re going through with their families gives you a different outlook on life. They’re very strong and courageous kids who don’t get to be normal kids. They have very tough times so it’s good to put a smile on their face and raise money to make their lives easier in the hospital.
“When you have the power to do (charitable) stuff, as I do and other hockey players do, you have to take advantage of it.”
Prust, Dave Moore — no relation to his trainer — and many volunteers worked long hours to raise about $135,000 in their inaugural tournament, funds coming from those players who dig deep to tee up, sponsorships, a live auction and generous individuals who contribute to the cause.
It’s not an inexpensive event, a foursome paying $8,888.88 — Prust’s No. 8 Canadiens jersey setting the bar — to play Redtail with one of the NHL players Prust has recruited for the day.
“Davey and I work hard together,” Prust said. “He’s more doing meetings with the (hospital) foundation and the logistics of it while I help get auction items and make sure I get the players.
“We couldn’t do this without each other. This time, we’re hoping to beat our money from last time, a lot more. We’re shooting high.”
This year’s field is expected to include Canadiens teammates P.K. Subban, Rene Bourque, Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, as well as Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty and about 10 others.
Prust will offer up for auction something like a trip to Montreal for a couple nights and tickets to a Canadiens game; donated goods, services and sports memorabilia will attract large bids.
And Prust pulls major strings. He’s friendly with Joe LaCava, who caddies for a pro named Tiger Woods, and in 2012 he bagged for auction a blank Masters scorecard autographed by Woods.
This week, LaCava will have Woods sign a British Open flag from Royal Liverpool and provide that for the auction.
I suggested to Prust that he charter an aircraft and fly in a jetload of PGA stars from the RBC Canadian Open, which finishes at Royal Montreal two days before his own event.
“I’d love that for sure but I’m guessing it won’t happen,” he said, laughing. “I met Joe (LaCava) when I was in New York and my dad told him, ‘Hey, get Tiger to come to Brandon’s tournament!’
“Joe said that Tiger probably would want to think about it and might like to play Redtail. But I’d guess it’s definitely wishful thinking, getting Tiger for my tournament.”
So Prust, a fine golfer, might be in the drivers’ seat to win this year if he played his own tournament — which he doesn’t, touring the course in a golf cart to meet the participants.
“My skill has been depleted the last couple of years. My shoulders aren’t what they used to be,” he joked, saying his driver is the worst club in his bag, his less than sterling efforts off the tee salvaged by his mid to low irons.
Regardless, teammate Brendan Gallagher insists that Prust will be the Canadien to beat at the team’s season-opening tournament in September.
“I wouldn’t be putting money on me,” Prust said with a laugh that suggested he is exactly where a wise wager should go.
For more on Prust’s tournament, or to make a donation to his charity, visit prusty4kids.ca
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