By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
VICTORIA, British Columbia – It is not any great revelation to find fit young men with chiseled muscles at Willows Beach in July and August. It is, however, surprising to find several there in the mornings before the sun-tanned crowds and working up a sweat by carrying large pieces of driftwood and doing agility drills on the sand. But these aren’t your average young men looking to impress the bikini-clad women.
The likes of Matt Pettinger of the Washington Capitals usually do their thing far from the beach in summer in the much colder confines of a hockey rink. But when you’re part of the workout group under Victoria training guru Jeff Compton — who leads innovative off-season training sessions for a clutch of Island hockey pros — you never know where you’ll be training.
“It’s good to mix things up and training never gets stagnant under Jeff’s methods,” said Pettinger, who went from role-playing NHL forward to a 20- and 16-goal scorer the past two seasons with Washington.
“Sand is an unstable surface and so the beach is excellent cross-training because hockey is a sport where your feet and ankles are always on edges.”
In one unique drill on sand, Compton has three players astride moving in unison while tied to a tether. Pettinger’s tether was connected to Matt Ellison of Duncan and Jame Pollock of Victoria. Since Ellison recently signed with Nashville and Pollock with the Capitals, away from the beach that wouldn’t make for a bad trio in any Island rink.
Another trio strung together yesterday at Willows Beach for the tether drill included Saanich minor hockey product Taylor Ellington, taken early in the second round of this year’s draft by the Vancouver Canucks, Juan de Fuca product Adam Cracknell, a Calgary draft pick who played last season with the Flames’ ECHL affiliate Las Vegas Wranglers, and Racquet Club product Kirk MacDonald, who overcame testicular cancer to sign with the Albany River Rats of the AHL.
“When you go to the gym by yourself, nobody is pushing you. Jeff’s drills are so well integrated that we push each other,” said MacDonald, who has been training with Compton since he was 15.
“He always keeps it fresh.”
And this isn’t a day of lounging at the beach. ‘Push’ is the operative word.
“Kiel, remember, running shoes off,” yoga instructor Wynona Bailey reminded Victoria Salmon Kings captain Kiel McLeod yesterday, before she led the group through a mid-morning session on the grass at the Willows Beach park area.
“The need to improve your body and stay in top form has never been more important in hockey as it is now,” noted McLeod, the former second-round NHL draft pick, who has re-signed with the Salmon Kings.
“Everybody is looking to work their way up the ladder and you worry that the next guy may be working harder than you in the off-season, and that’s motivation to work hard through the summer.”
Other pros training in Victoria this summer under Compton include Houston Aeros AHL player and Minnesota Wild prospect Clayton Stoner of Port McNeill, German league pro and former San Jose Sharks blueliner Jesse Fibiger out of the Racquet Club, Jason Beckett of the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and 2007 Canucks draft pick Dan Gendur out of the Racquet Club.