Concerts, Cup visits, Croatian holidays ... NHLers tell us what they did this summer

September, 9, 2009

NEW YORK -- Like the first day of school, it's always fun to find out what everyone did over the summer.

My colleague Scott Burnside and I wondered what some of the NHL's top stars did during their downtime and we got some interesting answers during our interviews Tuesday and Wednesday at the NHL/NHLPA media tour here in Manhattan.

"I took a vacation with a friend in Spain," said Pittsburgh Penguins star center Evgeni Malkin. "We just rested on the beach and I just slept all day."

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas didn't hesitate. His favorite summer moment was taking part in a taping with Charlie Moore's fishing show.

"That was different doing that, just seeing how it works," said the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, who is an avid fisherman. "Plus, I caught better fish than him [laughs]."

Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom mostly relaxed at his cabin in Finland, but did take time to rock out.

"I saw U2 a couple of times with some friends in Milan and in Paris," said Backstrom. "That was a nice memory from the summer."

Alex Ovechkin didn't know where to start.

"I had lots of stuff," the Washington Capitals superstar said Wednesday. "I just can't say to you what was the best. The whole summer was like a good dream."

There was a vacation trip to Turkey followed by a day in Moscow where he was asked to "coach" a hockey team of models and singing groups as part of his clothing line event. Then, there was the night a Moscow club had called "Alex Ovechkin Night."

"Oh yeah, that was an unbelievable night," Ovechkin said. "Lots of friends and people there. It was unbelievable."

Sidney Crosby? That's an easy one.

"Well, the Cup, the couple of days with the Cup," said the Penguins' captain, who made the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, explode into celebration in August.

One of the places Crosby took the Stanley Cup during his two-day stint was Citadel Hill, a historic site that looks over the downtown area of Halifax. A cannon signals noon each day with a blast from the site.

"I remember being really young and being so interested in that, I remember being 5, 6 years old and wondering where that cannon was and all these things," said Crosby. "So to be up there with the Cup and the fire off at noon, that was something that kind of brought me back a bit for some reason. There were so many things that went on. There was the parade and all that kind of stuff that just hit me, and that was kind of neat."

Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf took time off in the Bahamas and Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist took a trip to Paris. Calgary Flames blueliner Jay Bouwmeester enjoyed going to Hawaii, while Flyers forward Jeff Carter and Bruins winger Milan Lucic both vacationed in Mexico.

"This year, I kind of stepped out of my box in that I haven't been on a holiday for about five years," said Lucic.

Snorkeling in Chichen Itza was something to behold.

"Going to Chichen Itza, it's one of the wonders of the world, and learning about the Mayans and what they did with so little that they had and to know what they did was honestly one of the coolest things that I've encountered in my 21 years so far," said Lucic.

Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash kicked back old-school with a golfing trip to Scotland.

"My mom and grandma are from there, so I got to meet some cousins and uncles and stuff like that," said Nash. "I got lucky, got to play some of the big-name courses, which was awesome."

He won't soon forget his day at St. Andrews.

"We had hail, windstorms, sunshine, sunburn ... it was typical Scotland weather, so we got the best of Scotland," he said.

New York Rangers winger Marian Gaborik lit up when asked about his favorite moment.

"We went to Croatia on a yacht and that was beautiful," said the Slovak, who cruised the Croatian coast with eight friends. He was clear in saying he did not navigate the yacht, however.

We all know it was a turbulent summer for Patrick Kane after his altercation with a cab driver in Buffalo, N.Y., but the Chicago Blackhawks star said there were some better moments.

"You look back at the summer, I think I had some great nights with my family," he said. "I have a basketball court in my backyard, and had a couple of basketball tournaments with my buddies. Played in a little Sunday night league that was just kind of a fun league. Just a lot of fun things I can look back on and enjoy.

"Actually, this is probably the hardest summer that I've ever worked out in my life and people are going to say because of one night that I didn't work out this summer. It's probably the hardest I've worked in my career on my body. I'm ready to get back into it, ready to get back into playing hockey."

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews went back home to Winnipeg and just chilled, for a bit.

"I was in Winnipeg for about a month, month and a half," said Toews. "After a while, I just went down to Minneapolis and trained and skated down there and lived with a friend. Down there, no one knows me, so I just could just relax and sleep and eat and work out and just do the normal simple things I wanted to do. I enjoy going home and obviously it's cool to see everyone that follows your career and everything that is happening in Chicago.

"It's great to have that support from all the fans and my friends and family back home, but eventually, I got to a certain point where I just had to tell myself that I had a duty to kind of get ready for this year and get ready for the Olympic camp, so I think it was the best decision to spend a few weeks away from home this summer, too."

While at the family home in Winnipeg, Toews was put to work.

"I cut the lawn a few times," he said with a smile. "I wouldn't say I'm a guest. It pretty much goes back to the way it is [growing up], fighting with my brother, getting in arguments with my mom. That's just normal."

Maybe it was too quiet for Toews this offseason?

"Hopefully, I'll have more to celebrate next summer," he said.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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