You talked about the Marlies run being important to the young guys last year. Did you have a chance to see them?
Brooks Laich: I did, yeah, and I kept in touch with them, too. Quite often with phone calls or text messages with the guys. It was sad to see that they didn’t go all the way, but they went through some adversity, which is good. You need to learn how to play through adversity. You need to learn to go into tough buildings. You need to learn how to play from behind or fight your way when things don’t go your way. It wasn’t the end result that everyone wanted, but I’m sure a lot of great things were gained by it.
You take great pride in your offseason preparation, with your skating coach out in Saskatoon. Was the preparation continued this year given the success you’ve had with the wheels you’ve got?
Laich: Yeah, the long summer really afforded me the [chance] to really build from the feet up. I feel healthier now than I did five or six years ago. I feel stronger now. I trained very hard, trained very long. I started skating a lot earlier. I started skating in mid-June this year. The touch, the feel – all of that is already there. I feel I’m ahead of the pace of what I’ve been in my NHL career coming into camp. I had a great summer. I really enjoy the summer. I’m somebody who enjoys the gym, enjoys working out, enjoys fitness. It’s always going to be a part of my life, so maybe I’m lucky that way. But I had a great summer, I’m very prepared for the season and I’m feeling great. I can’t wait to put that work to use on ice.
Do you like training camp? Or is that a bit of a grind you have to get through?
Laich: It’s great in so many ways. You get to see so many faces. It’s also a pain to see so many faces. There are 70 guys around and you want to just get down to your team. But it’s great to have some good practices. In the summer, you don’t get to do a whole lot of competition drills, so training camp is good for that. In the summer you work on your skills, your skating, your touches – that sort of stuff. Puck battles — one-on-one competition – is such a huge part of the game, so I don’t think you get as many reps at that as you will in training camp. I enjoy training camp though. It’s great. It’s preparation. I want to play as many games as I can. Try to get to ready for the new season, get to know new linemates, new teammates, feel out the new guys and get to know them a little bit. Also, still, I only spent six weeks here, so I want to get to know the system, the structure, the coaching staff, and have that be automatic so that it’s just protocol when you hit the ice.
Is it a bit of a different situation with Mike Babcock not being there and some of the players at the World Cup? Does that change training camp at all for you guys?
Laich: It makes it a bit different. Coach Babcock is obviously the leader around here. He’s everywhere. He pops in on days where we think he’s going to be busy with Team Canada, and he makes his rounds and says hi to the guys. He’s definitely going to have an eye on things. Coach Smith and Coach Hiller, they’ll relay it. There is not going to be any slacking just because he’s not here. Camp is going to be intense. There is going to be a lot of competition. It is a little different just because he has such a big presence, but just because he’s not here doesn’t mean we are going to approach it any other way.
2003-2016, your career comes full circle to Halifax. Take us back.
Laich: Oh man, it’s a tough one to revisit. Still to this day, one of my greatest memories and one of my worst. One of the biggest misses in my hockey career. Something that I don’t know if you ever get over. Having a two-goal lead in the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship, going into the third period up 2-1, and losing 3-2. The cardinal sin is to lose a game when you’re up going into the third period. Still, though, it was the first time I ever got to represent my country in an international competition, so it’s still a very proud moment. But, man, that gold medal would’ve been nice.