The new normal

To the untrained eye, Vancouver’s pre-game warm-up looks like mayhem.

Players are flying every which way, pucks are being fired left and right and even flipped up high as can be. There’s stretching and line rushes and water breaks and warm-up shots in an empty net and warm-up shots for the goaltenders.

It’s like watching ants zigzag around an anthill. Bedlam.

Turns out the chaos is more organized than it appears.

“It’s been pretty much the same pre-game routine forever,” laughed Troy Stecher, following morning skate Tuesday. “The other team is likely doing the exact same thing and it’s the same routine I had at UND.”

Stecher has never played such an important role in the tried-and-true warm-up, however.

Alex Burrows was many things to the Canucks, including the puck-out-of-the-net-getter-outer-guy during warm-up. He was also the lead passer during warm-up. Jannik Hansen was also heavily involved as the second round passer and the Burrows fill-in when he was unavailable.

Now they’re both gone and it’s all Stecher.

“Earlier this year Jannik was out and I forget if it was Hank or Danny (I still can’t tell them apart), but one of them told me to go pass the pucks during the horse shoe drill. So I did. Burr did the first round of passing and I did the second, until Jannik was back and things went back to normal.”

The fill-in has taken over full-time work.

Stecher retrieves pucks four times during warm-up and it would be a tall-task with a handful of biscuits, nevermind 30 (or however many pucks are in the bucket!). And no pressure, just all your teammates waiting on you in front of a rapidly filling arena.

“Nah, there’s no pressure,” laughed Stecher. “Well, maybe a little, but it doesn’t mess with my flow. You get prepared in the room more than anything. I never thought I’d be doing this in the NHL though, and definitely not this early in my career. Being from Van, I think it’s neat I get to pass pucks to Hank and Danny, I never thought I’d be doing that.”

Of late Stecher has also been tasked with sending in the last puck for Last Puck, when the Canucks try to score one final time on the backup goaltender. With roughly two minutes left on the clock, Stecher waits near centre ice for a puck to skip his way. He skates in with it to the blue line and fires a wrister into the pack, trying to score.

This was also Burr’s job and is now Stecher’s, right?

“I’ve done it the last couple of games, but I don’t know if it will be me full-time moving forward. We’re transitioning to the new normal right now.”

Stecher’s normal has always included being one of the last players off the ice and anyone on the Canucks bench beware, he squirts his water bottle high into the air before skating off.

Splash zone anyone?

“I get really into basketball during the NBA Playoffs when it’s the final four teams, it’s kind of like when it’s the final four in the NHL, it’s the best time to watch in my opinion. I love watching LeBron James throw up the chalk pre-game, so I started squiring water in the air like him back in junior and it just stuck.”

King Troy it is.

Derek Jory – @NoJoryous

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