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Bieksa and Hamhuis surprise Midget Triple-A team in North Van with workout, Q&A sessions


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Kevin Bieksa couldn’t help himself. He saw one of the North Vancouver Storm players racing toward him and decided there was no way the kid was going to beat him.

“I knew he was going to attack me one-on-one and I’m thinking, ‘I am not letting this guy beat me,’ ” Bieksa said. “He tried to put it through my legs and go around me and I’m like, ‘sorry, not today Bud.’’’

So Bieksa did what comes naturally. He straight-armed the kid, who fell to the ice. Both had big smiles on their faces.

There was a lot of smiling late Thursday afternoon when Bieksa and fellow Canuck defenceman Dan Hamhuis surprised the Storm and took part in the Midget Triple-A team’s fast-paced hour-long practice at Harry Jerome Arena.

Coach Dan Cioffi had been given the heads-up that Bieksa and Hamhuis were going to drop by, but he didn’t tell his 15- and 16-year-old players. More than a few jaws dropped when the two Canucks hopped over the boards just minutes after the Storm hit the ice.

“Yeah, I think they were surprised,” Bieksa said. “When we got on the ice they were pretty shocked and there were a lot of wide eyes.”

The NHL Players’ Association has encouraged its members to get out and participate in some minor hockey league practices during the current lockout. Hamhuis and Bieksa were happy to oblige and fellow Canuck Mason Raymond surprised a Vancouver-area team earlier this week.

Wearing NHLPA jerseys and Canucks helmets and pants, Hamhuis and Bieksa participated in all of the team’s drills. At one point, Bieksa drew up a drill on the coach’s rink board.

“You want to help them out as much as you can,” Bieksa said. “It’s tough in one practice, but the one drill just kind of gave them a couple of pointers. We were doing a three-on-two drill, one that Dan and I thought was tough to defend.”

Both Hamhuis and Bieksa were impressed with the pace of the practice.

“They were really good,” Hamhuis said. “We were impressed. They can skate really well and they made some nice plays out there. It was a good practice and we had a lot of fun. I might steal some of those drills.”

“When we first got out there we were kind of sitting at the side, just watching the first drill, and the kids were just buzzing around,” Bieksa added. “And we kind of looked at one another and said, ‘okay, are you ready for this?’ It was definitely a quick pace out there.

“It definitely wasn’t easy out there. It was hard work and a couple of times during the scrimmage we were gasping for air when we came off. They were impressive.”

The Storm, obviously, had a blast, although goalie Chris Gharakhanian admitted he had some butterflies when he saw Bieksa teeing up a shot from the point.

“Bieksa was right at the point and I flinched,” the 16-year-old said. “I don’t normally flinch. I stopped it and had good rebound control, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared. It was great they would do something like this. I guess they’ve got a little extra time on their hands these days.”

After the practice, Bieksa and Hamhuis spent considerable time with the Storm players in their dressing room answering questions. That was after they waded their way through two young girls’ teams that were about to take the ice.

“They had some questions for us,” Hamhuis said. “They are at that age where they have to make some decisions about junior hockey and college so it was a good mix. Kevin was a college guy and I went the junior route, so they had questions specific to that.”

“They were all ears and listening and taking it all in,” added Bieksa. “It was good, it felt like it was constructive.”

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awesome! good work boys!

Burrows just played in a charity game recently too in Quebec with a bunch of other NHL players. Believed it started with some guys from Philly - it's supposed to be going around to small towns in Quebec etc.

Pretty neat to see some guys sticking around and giving back to their community while they're out of work and could easily be in Europe playing

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Ha, my son and I were just talking a couple of days ago about the whole lock out thing and I commented that I really wished some of the players would do stuff like this ("surprise young players with a drop in") with their free time. My son scoffed at my suggestion, but I guess great minds (like me & KB) think alike. What a thrill for these players.

Hugh: I know you're on a roll, but try to add something to the discussion besides just being a wet blanket, ok?

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