It’s hardly been an OFF-season for Connecticut Whale/New York Rangers center Kris Newbury.
First, Newbury’s wife, Amanda, gave birth to the couple’s third child, Jorja, on May 7.
“The little one is growing like a weed,” proud papa said with a wide smile.
Newbury also was involved in plenty of off-ice activities, mostly baseball, with 8-year-old son Jake and 6-year-old daughter Jaidyn. And when not busy with the kids, Newbury was working out 2-to-3 hours four days a week with former Whale strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Goodman at Future Fitness Sport Specific Training at Champions Skating Center, the Whale’s practice facility when they’re not at the XL Center in Hartford.
“I worked out Monday through Thursday and took care of Jorga on Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Newbury said, smiling again. “It’s been real busy, but fun, too. The kids like to play in the sand a lot, and we tried to relax and have barbecues and things like that. I’m trying to get in shape, so it’s been good. But it went by quick.”
The workouts for Newbury and 25 other pro and college players is culminating this week with the sixth annual Pete Asadourian Pro Hockey Camp that also includes Bolton native and Winnipeg Jets standout defenseman Ron Hainsey, captain of the Red team; Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonini of Avon, captain of the Green team; South Windsor native Jon DiSalvatore, a right wing who captained the Houston Aeros to Game 6 of the Calder Cup finals against the champion Binghamton Senators; and former Hartford Wolf Pack goalie Matt Zaba, who will be returning to Italy in the next two weeks for his second season with HC Balzano in the Italian Elite League.
Wethersfield native Colin McDonald, son of former Hartford Whalers defenseman Gerry McDonald, is in Boston until Friday, when he will head south and participate in a camp-ending scrimmage from 6 to 8 p.m. McDonald led the AHL in goals last season with 42 with the Oklahoma City Barons while playing mostly alongside former Wolf Pack wing and AHL MVP Alexandre Giroux. But McDonald didn’t get a contract he thought he deserved from the Edmonton Oilers, so he signed a free-agent deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1.
“This is like the culmination of our offseason,” Asadourian, the owner and founder of Future Fitness Sport Specific Training, said as the players scrimmaged before a second round of off-ice training. “About 90 percent of the guys here this week have been working out and scrimmaging for several months, and now everyone gets together for some final work before training camp.”
Yale coach Keith Allain, whose Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation for much of last season, and South Windsor High School coach Neil Rodman are the on-ice instructors. A $2 donation will be collected at the door Friday night, and there will be autographs before and after the scrimmage, silent auction items and a player memorabilia raffle.
Newbury, an assistant captain on the Green team, then will spend a few weeks with his wife and youngsters before meeting Whale/Rangers right wing Dale Weise for more workouts before all the Rangers players report for training camp Sept. 15 at the team’s training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y.
Newbury and his family remained in West Hartford this summer rather than return to Toronto except for three weeks and to attend the Aug. 6 wedding of longtime friend and linemate Jeremy Williams, the Whale’s only All-Star last season who wasn’t re-signed and has already begun playing for Red Bull in the Austrian Elite League. Newbury said his oldest kids liked the schools they were in, were signed up for baseball and Jake was signed up for summer hockey. Not to mention Amanda being pregnant and Jorja being born in early May.
“Normally we’d go back to Toronto, but I had our house there rented out to some friends, so it worked out well,” Newbury said.
And the 28-year-old Newbury, a Whale assistant captain last season when not on recall to the Rangers, said he worked out “probably the hardest I ever have” this summer.
“I just wanted to give myself the best chance possible to make the Rangers,” Newbury said.
Newbury led the Whale in scoring last season with 17 goals and a team-high 44 assists in 69 games. Though he had only one assist in 11 games with the Rangers, he earned constant kudos from coach John Tortorella for his work ethic, faceoff ability, penalty killing and willingness to be his usual physical presence.
The Rangers bought out Trumbull native and captain Chris Drury on June 29, but money saved there went a long way toward signing the plum prize of free agency, center Brad Richards, who had 28 goals and 49 assists in 72 games with the Dallas Stars last season. Richards also won the Conn Smyth Trophy as playoff MVP while leading Tortorella and the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004.
“I don’t think (signing Richards) really affects me,” Newbury said. “He’s a different kind of player than me, a skilled guy, but I think getting him was good. At the end of the day, you want to be on a team that has a chance to win.”
Newbury’s other major competition in New York includes former Wolf Pack center Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Derek Stepan, Erik Christensen and John Mitchell, a free-agent signing who had a strong six weeks with the Whale after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a seventh-round pick in 2012 on Feb. 28.
“I’m just going to go back and do the same things and hopefully impress the right people,” Newbury said.
Like any player, Newbury’s No. 1 goal is to make the Rangers, but if he starts the season in Hartford, he doesn’t think his role will change much even though three of the Whale’s top four scorers last season – Williams, Brodie Dupont and Evgeny Grachev – were traded or not re-signed and likely will be replaced by youngsters such as Carl Hagelin, if he doesn’t stick on Broadway, Ryan Bourque, Tommy Grant, Andrew Yogan and Kale Kerbashian.
“I just try to go out and work as hard as I can and enjoy hassling the young guys,” Newbury said with a smile. “I just try to make my work ethic show and hopefully they can catch on.”
Newbury and veterans such as defensemen Wade Redden, who reportedly hasn’t been invited to Rangers camp, and Jared Nightingale could be in line to be the next captain of the Whale, who didn’t have one after left wing Dane Byers was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for right wing Chad Kolarik on Nov. 11.
“(The captaincy) is the coaches’ decision,” Newbury said. “It’s just their preference, but I think for our team last year it worked out fine (without a captain). We had good leaders in the (dressing) room.”
Still, Newbury likely will have to lend a special helping hand to the young forwards trying to adjust to the pro ranks.
“Guys have to prove themselves, and it takes awhile,” Newbury said. “Young guys come in, and they used to play on the first or second line in juniors or college, so they have to learn the ropes. But there should be a couple guys back. Whoever cracks the lineup with the Rangers, then someone loses a job and goes to Hartford. But I think we’ve got enough guys. Mitchell will be here if he doesn’t make it.”
Ditto for Weise, Kolarik and Mats Zuccarello, who all earned various amounts of time with the Rangers for the first time last season and will be vying for a right-wing spot in New York barring any trade(s). But that’s what training camp is for and why Newbury worked as hard he did the last three months in hopes of making the best impression possible starting in three weeks.
HAINSEY HEADED TO WINNIPEG
It’s also been a busy offseason for Hainsey as the Atlanta Thrashers ceased operations because of poor attendance and millions of dollars in losses and were moved to the frozen tundra of Winnipeg, Manitoba, becoming the new Jets.
“We weren’t expecting to move, but we knew what the ownership situation was what it was,” said Hainsey, 30, a first-round pick (13th overall) of the Montreal Canadiens in 2000 who played in Winnipeg while with the former Quebec Citadelles and Hamilton Bulldogs. “Obviously once the Phoenix situation took place, we knew something could happen. But we’re the players, so there’s really not much that you can do.”
The Phoenix Coyotes reportedly were headed to Winnipeg, but the Glendale (Ariz.) City Council voted to give another $25 million to the NHL, which is running the franchise. With the Coyotes staying in Arizona for at least one more season, the Thrashers became the frontrunner to move to Winnipeg, one of four former World Hockey Association franchises to join the NHL in 1979, along with the Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Edmonton Oilers.
Hainsey spent three seasons in the Canadiens organization before being claimed off waivers by the Columbus Blue Jackets on Nov. 25, 2005. He then established himself as a top-notch two-way defenseman, playing three seasons with the Blue Jackets before signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Thrashers. He has 34 goals and 135 assists in 488 NHL games but has never played in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
One of his top adversaries has been Trumbull native and former Rangers captain Chris Drury, who retired on Friday at 35 after a 12-year NHL career that included winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. Drury went out with no fanfare after missing 53 of 87 games because of a twice-broken finger and knee surgery.
“I only got to meet him (in person) at the (U.S.) Olympic camp two years ago,” Hainsey said. “We’re both from Connecticut so we knew each other from being around here, and he was a great guy and a great leader who had a great career. Unfortunately his body, specifically his knees, just gave out on him the last few years. I don’t think he wants to play if he can’t keep up because of his legs.
“He’s not going to say anything, but he was hurting with two surgeries last season and just making it back (for the regular season finale and playoffs). His knees were bothering him, and while I can’t speak for him, I assume somebody would have picked him up, but his legs probably wouldn’t let him keep up. It’s probably too soon for him (to retire) because I think he probably had a little left if he was healthy, but those things happen.”
ANISIMOV BACK IN THE STATES
Anisimov arrived from Russia on Tuesday and worked out Wednesday was at the MSG training center on Wednesday with teammates Zuccarello, Sean Avery, Martin Biron and former Wolf Pack forward Brandon Dubinsky.
After the workout, Anisimov joined Zuccarello in a rigorous on-ice session with famed skating instructor Barbara Underhill. Anisimov told BlueShirtsUnited.com that he was “very happy” to have agreed to a new two-year contract in June “so that I could enjoy the rest of my summer without any worries” back home in his native Russia.
Anisimov also said he has one major change for this season: after living for two years in Westchester, N.Y., he plans to live in Manhattan.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the chance to live in such a big and great city, and I don’t want to miss that chance,” Anisimov said. “Plus, it will help me get warmed up when I walk to MSG for home games!” … Former Wolf Pack defenseman Chris Murray signed a two-way AHL/ECHL contract with the Charlotte Checkers. Murray, 26, had one goal and eight assists in 52 games with the Albany Devils last season. The native of Dover, Mass., has played in 100 career AHL games with six teams, notching three goals and 14 assists, including three assists in 13 games with the Wolf Pack in 2008-09. He also has played parts of three seasons in the ECHL and was a member of the 2007-08 Checkers, getting two goals and 13 assists in 53 games. Before turning pro, Murray played four seasons at the University of New Hampshire and was named a Hockey East All-Star in his senior year. … Former Wolf Pack/Whale right wing Derek Couture signed with the Ontario Reign, the ECHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings in Ontario, Calif. Couture had six goals, four assists and 22 penalty minutes in 20 games with the Whale last season before returning to the Victoria Salmon Kings, who lost to the Alaska Aces, coached by former Wolf Pack defenseman Brent Thompson, in the Kelly Cup finals. Thompson was named coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on June 28.
CESARI IS NEW WHALE STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING COACH
Mark Cesari has succeeded Goodman as the Whale’s strength and conditioning coach.
Cesari has designed and implemented strength and conditioning programs for NHL, AHL, Olympic and USA development athletes. He has joined the Whale after two years as the rehabilitation coordinator at a clinic in Montreal. Before that, he spent three seasons as the head strength and conditioning coach/athletic trainer with the Rochester Institute of Technology hockey program.
In 2005, Cesari worked with the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and the Phoenix Roadrunners of the ECHL as the assistant athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach. He completed his Masters of Science degree in Sports Health Care from the Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2006. In 2004, he earned his bachelors’ degree in Exercise Science from Concordia University in Montreal. A native of Montreal, Cesari lives in Hartford with his wife Jennifer.