Canucks’ David Booth busses Billy the bear
'Being licked right in the face by a grizzly bear is something that I never thought would be possible'
VANCOUVER — David Booth has hunted bears. Now he can say he was kissed by one, too.
The Vancouver Canucks winger spent his day off Sunday visiting Abbotsford animal trainer Mark Dumas and then tweeted a photo of himself getting a smackeroo on the lips from Billy the grizzly bear. Dumas and his wife Dawn train various animals for movies. They also have a polar bear. Their company is called Beyond Just Bears.
"It was one of the coolest things I've ever done," Booth said Tuesday, prior to the Canucks-New York Rangers game at Rogers Arena. "A friend of mine set me up with the guy and told me it was hands-on. So I jumped at the opportunity. I have a bunch of other pictures but that one was pretty cool. Being licked right in the face by a grizzly bear is something that I never thought would be possible. I thought it was a very, very cool opportunity and I wanted to take advantage of it."
Dumas confirmed that Booth had a grand time at his place.
"The visit went great and I don't know what else to tell you," Dumas said Tuesday. "He enjoyed all the different animals but he's not the only person in the world to enjoy them."
Needles to say, an NHL player being kissed, or licked, by a grizzly bear does leave some room for chirping. Booth even chirped himself.
"My fiancee was there with me and I told her 'sorry for cheating on you,’ ” he chuckled.
Two years ago, Booth and bears were in the news for a different reason. Then he was heavily criticized for bear baiting — and killing a black bear — in Alberta for a reality TV show called The Edge. Bear baiting is not legal in B.C.
On Tuesday, Canucks teammates Tom Sestito and Zack Kassian could only shake their heads in amazement — and they are the toughest players on the roster based on penalty minutes.
"Kissing a grizzly bear is his thing but it's not my thing," said Sestito. "I'm not going to be kissing a grizzly bear. When I saw the photo, I was, like, why? That was the first thing that was going through my mind. But it's what he likes doing. It gives him a rush and you can't blame him for doing what he likes to do."
Kassian was impressed by Booth's bravery but concerned for his sanity.
"I saw the picture on Twitter Monday and my thoughts were he's bleepin' crazy," Kassian said, laughing. "There are not many humans who would get that close to a grizzly bear, I'll tell you that. It's called living life on the edge. I can tell you right now that I wouldn't be doing that anytime soon.
"My dog, that's the only thing I get close to," added Kassian. "But during the Olympic break, he was alligator hunting so if you're going to get close to an alligator, I think you're going to get close to a lot of things. That's the way he is. He's an outdoorsy kind of guy. He seems to like it and have fun with it and he's coming back every time without a scratch."
Booth admitted that getting kissed by Billy was, indeed, a bit of risky business.
"When you're looking in a grizzly bear's eye, you don't know," he said. "The thing was growling, like, right in my face and I was looking down his throat. It was pretty scary. But (Mark) has had Billy for about three years, ever since he was a cub, and he's trained it and says it's not that dangerous. He says all the experience he's had with bears, you can really train them. But they have stuff to protect you if anything were to go wrong. That was a chance I was willing to take."
It wasn't Booth's first experience with a grizzly bear, just his first kiss.
"I had one lick my hands with honey on it before and no, it was not a wild one, no, no," he explained. "A grizzly will tear you up. They are one of the fiercest animals in all of creation. I mean, their claws are longer than my fingers. I'm not that dumb."
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