What do ICE forward Owen Pederson and Santa Claus have in common?
Well, both have lists and both check those lists twice before heading out on major road trips!
Come to think of it, Pederson may also be experiencing that special feeling that comes over all of us when a magical time of year is near.
Yeah, it’s a little like Christmas time for Owen and his Western Hockey League peers because a long-awaited return to play is just about here.
And for the Albertan that means the list he’s dealing with is an outline of what to pack for two months in the East Division hub centre of Regina.
Clothes – check.
Massage gun – a must.
Video game gear – you bet.
Small tv for gaming and watching NHL LIVE – sounds like a plan.
You get the idea, but what’s the big forward been up to since play halted last March?
ALL ABOUT ATTITUDE
The pandemic has impacted all of us, for East Division WHL players that impact includes a year between games.
And for Owen Pederson coping with the pause is a matter of choice. A matter of attitude.
“For the most part I’ve just tried to stay positive about everything and spent my time staying on the ice as much as possible, working out, doing everything you’d normally do in the off-season,” said the forward by phone earlier this week. “And, when we got the call that we were going back I just wanted to try my best to be ready for that day.”
Make no mistake, he’ll be ready. Owen has been working out steadily and skating plenty since closing out an impressive 28-goal season with a tally in a win over the Pats in Regina last March.
He also spent a couple of months with the Lloydminster Bobcats last fall in an effort to stay sharp until the Alberta Junior Hockey League was put on hold due to COVID-19 precautions.
And, Pederson has made the most of an extended stay at home in other ways.
“There’s some stuff that I’ve been doing with my family that I wouldn’t really normally get to be doing – ice fishing, things like that. More time with my family,” and then Owen revealed some really big news. “My family also got a new puppy this summer, so it’s been a lot of time with the new dog. Just little things that I wouldn’t usually be getting to do, but now with the extended off-season got to do. I’ve definitely taken advantage of that.”
And the family is glad he has, including June the pooch (named in honour of the month she joined the family).
DRAFT SERVES AS INSPIRATION
Owen Pederson, like all 2020 NHL Draft prospects, had an extra-long wait for the big day and when it came the ICE forward didn’t hear his name called.
Disappointing after 28 goals and 50 points in 61 games in his first full season in the league, but another crossroads simply offered another chance to show perspective.
“There’s obviously a couple of ways you can handle that, and I just think you might as well use it as motivation and try and make myself better for it,” said Pederson matter-of-factly. “So, I just took it as an opportunity to get better all summer and improve on the things that maybe I wasn’t so good at last year and try and have a better year this year.”
As a result, Owen reports feeling stronger and quicker thanks to his workout regimen and says attention to his skating has led to gains in that area.
THE CAPTAIN AND THE ROAD AHEAD
ICE Captain Peyton Krebs was returned to the club earlier this week after notching five points in five American Hockey League games with the Vegas Golden Knights’ affiliate and the news wasn’t lost on Pederson a frequent linemate of the talented forward.
“Unreal player. Unreal guy. Someone that I myself, and a lot of the guys, can look up to and look to for advice and leadership and stuff like that,” offered Owen. “So to have a guy like that back is going to be huge for us and huge for me to hopefully get a chance to play with him.”
Once Pederson, Krebs and the ICE contingent gets settled in Regina there will be an isolation period followed by a sprint to use a short window of practice time to get set for puck drop.
“It’s probably going to be a tough week of practice. The coaches, it’s their job to get us ready, and as players it’s our job to get ready during that one week and work as hard as we can during that one week,” said Owen enthusiastically. “So, I think that practice is going to be fun, to see all the boys again, and be on the ice with the boys and just get back into the flow of hockey and get ready for the games.”
As for goals for the two-dozen game campaign, well don’t think for a moment the possibility of no playoffs is taking away from Owen’s attitude.
“Our goal is going to be to try and be the best team in that bubble, and try and win as many games out of 24 as we can and whether it’s playoffs or not. We’re trying to have fun and we’re trying to win. So, it doesn’t really matter if there’s no playoffs, I don’t think it’ll change the way we play.”
With that kind of energy it really does feel like something special is coming soon even if it won’t involve the jolly old guy from the North Pole.