New Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison training, waiting and wondering
White Rock native doing his best to stickhandle around change of scenery, looming lockout
VANCOUVER - It's still summer and new Vancouver Canuck defenceman Jason Garrison is already rocking a full beard.
Since it isn't playoffs, is it a lockout beard?
“No,” a smiling Garrison said Thursday following a workout at UBC's Thunderbird Arena. “I just don't shave too much in the summer, but let's hope I can get a real nice playoff beard going, too.”
There is no chance, he insisted, that he'll keep the current beard until the National Hockey League and its players sign a new collective bargaining agreement. Just think of the photo ops. Or the guys from ZZ Top.
“It would look pretty gross, that's for sure,” Garrison said, quickly rejecting the suggestion. “I plan on shaving in the next few days here.”
Garrison may have oodles of times to both grow a beard and then shave it off before he gets to play a game for his new squad. The 27-year-old from White Rock signed with the Canucks on July 1 for six years and $27.6 million. With a lockout looming, all he can do is train, wait and wonder.
The NHLPA is expected to counter the league's latest collective bargaining agreement proposal on Friday.
“You try not to think about it too much,” said Garrison. “I'm just looking forward to when the season does start. The timeline for that is up in the air a little bit so I'm just preparing myself and getting ready and familiarizing myself with the rink and the players and the trainers.”
While some players have their agents exploring European teams for possible lockout landing places, Garrison is hanging tough for now, claiming it's not a priority. He's represented by Matt Oates of Chicago.
“I mean, I haven't really thought about it too much,” he explained. “Obviously I'm still hoping for a season and, obviously, everybody is in the same boat. My agent's been busy with a couple of guys who are playing in North America and he's focusing on them now. When a decision is made about the CBA, I'll talk to him and see what my options are.”
Garrison maintains he is still optimistic the league and union will be able to find common ground before Sept. 15, the deadline set by commissioner Gary Bettman.
“I mean, there are still a couple of weeks left so we'll see what happens,” he said. “I think the best way to approach it is to prepare as if the season was going to start on time. Then, if it's delayed or what-not, you just kind of refocus and maybe fine-tune some things.”
Garrison did concede he wouldn't enjoy having some of salary clawed back through either an outright percentage cut, or an escrow system. Like every other player in the league, he signed his deal in good faith.
“Obviously it's the first time for me going through this,” he said. “I don't think anybody would be happy [with a clawback] but, unfortunately, it's kind of part of the business and what can happen. You try not to think about those things too much. Whether the season is delayed or not, I'll be ready no matter what.”
Meanwhile, Canuck right-winger Zack Kassian, who was also skating at UBC on Thursday, doesn't have to fret about finding a place to play in the event of a lockout. As a second-year pro, he is eligible to play in the American Hockey League and will go straight to the Chicago Wolves training camp on Sept. 28 if there isn't a camp in Vancouver.
Asked if he felt some comfort in his situation, he replied: “I don't think it's comfort, I think it's opportunity. It's fun knowing I'll have a place to play either here or in Chicago. If it does happen that I end up in Chicago, I'll take every opportunity to get better down there.”
Kassian, 21, played 30 games in the minors last season with the Buffalo Sabres' farm team in Rochester, N.Y., before his trade to Vancouver. He had 15 goals and 26 points in those 30 games.
ICE CHIPS: Other Canuck regulars skating at UBC on Thursday were Manny Malhotra and Dale Weise. Farmhands Kellen Tochkin and John Negrin completed the group of six.
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