Now this Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks defender (and fan favorite) Kevin Bieksa retired, he is starting a media career, which included working for Sportsnet in Canada and – while quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic – making TikTok videos with his daughter.
In an appearance in the ESPN On Ice Podcast This Week, Bieksa recalls the infamous 2011 Stanley Cup final, shares insights about the Sedin twins and superfan Michael Buble of Canucks, and identifies which of his former teammates he sees as successful in his second hockey career both in and out of hockey. .
ESPN: If you were still playing, what would your mentality be now?
Bieksa: If I was still playing, I would be working hard every day. Just like that, when things started, I had an advantage over everyone. That would be my mindset, for sure. So I think I would definitely wake up every day – I mean, I'm not playing and I still wake up early every day – and eating the right things and exercising. I have nothing to exercise, but I still do.
Some of the guys I talked to in the NHL now, in fact, I would say that most of the guys I kept in touch with aren't doing much. And a lot of guys went back to their hometowns and home countries and didn't even bring their hockey gear. So I think a lot of guys have already canceled the season, to tell you the truth. But there are probably some guys who skate and train, waiting for something to start. I just don't know. It is an unprecedented moment. And people are approaching it in different ways.
ESPN: The NHL talked about opening training facilities, but also the need for a level playing field. When the guys have a chance to skate, they'll be on the rink, right?
Bieksa: Yes, I think so, if you start opening things up there. There are enough private tracks out there, as we have some tracks in California that have just opened with private ownership, and I think they are complying with the protocol. It is very strict. So, the children are showing up already dressed and there are no parents allowed in the stands and dressing rooms and everything. Then, slowly, there is more and more ice available.
I just don't know. I feel that there are many obstacles, many obstacles to be overcome to resume this season, with AHL canceling its season. I know that the owners want to recover some of the lost revenue, but I don't understand how you are going to find a solution that the players agree with and that will be good enough for people to tune in. I think people are attuned to anything – but I don't know, I see a lot of obstacles.
ESPN: Can you share the story about the time when Michael Buble arrived at Canucks training?
Bieksa: So we all knew that he was a huge fan and lived in the same neighborhood that I lived in, Yaletown. And we would see him a little bit, but I don't think I realized the size of a fan, because he was kind of shy and impassive. And now that you hear him talking about how big a fan he is … He was almost intimidated to say hi to us, which I think is ridiculous because this guy is one of the greatest singers in the world. And we used to go to his shows, and he would shout in the stands and give us all that attention.
Anyway, super unbelievable guy. But eventually, somehow, we figured out how to get him to practice. He comes with his grandfather. He dresses. And the way I remember the story is not exactly how it happened, because I ended up watching the video the other day of the replay; they are still on Canucks TV. But he broke up, and that's what I remember. And I thought he was trying [Roberto] Luongo, but he shot the puck and hit the post. And then he stands on tiptoe and enters the board head first. Then he got up and his helmet was on its side, and it was just a funny moment. It was a difficult practice, and there is a little pressure around the team at that time. And I remember seeing that later. It was just unbelievable. Everyone was laughing, and he was laughing. He was super humble with the whole situation, saying "I was ashamed" and everything, but it was great to have him skateboard.
So I had him at a charity event during the last block, and he came and was part of it. But I couldn't get him to play. I called him, gave all the reasons for the book. I said I will put you on a line with the Sedins. All you have to do is stand in front of the net and get a ringtone, like [Alex] Burrows did for eight years. And he was very nervous. Like, "No, no, I'm out of my league. I just know that when I'm out of my league, I'm really nervous." I say, "How nervous are you? Do you sing in front of millions and billions of people around the world and are nervous about playing at UBC in a charity game with the two best players in the world in your line?" He didn't play. But he came and agreed with the donation, which was incredible.
ESPN: I wanted to ask you about the 2011 Stanley Cup final. Were you able to appreciate the magnitude of that final or is it still a very unpleasant wound for you as a former Canuck?
Bieksa: It's a little bit of both. Looking back, you appreciate how good the season was and how far we've come. When we started the final, we were a defeated group. We had seven tiring games against Chicago, where you travel across three time zones. We had six tiring games against Nashville, where you travel three time zones. And then we had a really tiring run against San Jose; despite only five games, they were a big, strong and physical team. Many successes, some fights.
So, we were a bunch of mistreated when we arrived in Boston, with whom we didn't have much rivalry at the time. At that time, we didn't play with teams in the east. It wasn't like today, where you have a home and a home with everyone. There are teams that you haven't seen in two, three years. So there wasn’t much rivalry, but we knew they’d be super physical. And in the first two games in Vancouver, I remember that they were very good for us and we were able to match. And then, in Boston, they just took it to a whole new level and outperformed others.
Looking back now, I was very focused on trying to win, but there was finger-biting and diving and all these other side presentations, and [Brad] Marchand and [Maxim] Lapierre and Burrows and all that stuff. … Yes, I'm sure it was fun from a fan's perspective.
ESPN: You created the Blackhawks. The heat you had with Chicago was incredible.
Bieksa: Yes, that was probably the best rivalry, for at least five years, because both teams were probably the two best in the West. We really don't like each other. And there was no setback on either side.
At that time, the third line was like Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg; they are guys who later went to their individual teams and signed big contracts and played on the front row. That was the third line. So they had a big and strong team. Ben Eager and Adam Burish on the fourth line, they didn't back away from anyone. [Duncan] Keith and [Brent] Seabrook played hard; They had Brian Campbell back then too. But our team was also good. We were physical and strong and tough, we just banged heads and hated each other.
ESPN: What is your favorite Sedins story? What were they like behind the scenes?
Bieksa: They are quite monotonous behind the scenes. Like, they are what they look like. They are just the two coolest guys. Throughout your career, you play a lot with these guys and with them every day, right? Every day you are with them in the morning, after skating, you are dressing with them, traveling with them, having dinner with them. At some point, you get tired of your teammates, no matter who they are. These two guys, you never get tired of them and you never get mad at them, because they are so cool and relaxed. For example, there are times when you are traveling on the bus and you take a long bus ride and the guys are complaining and complaining. And these guys would never complain about anything. They were so fun to be around. It has always been positive. It was always fun.
We used to ski in the mountains of Vancouver while training in late summer. And we would have good runs up there. We would ski and eventually go into the Swedish hut and have hot chocolate and coffee or whatever. Those two were very competitive with that. Obviously, they are known for their endurance. So, I would try to add some complete contact to it, to try to slow them down a bit. But we had a lot of fun over the years and a lot of competition. And they are amazing guys.
ESPN: What have been your adventures in TikTok so far as a member of that community?
Bieksa: Well, I was kind of bullied a little bit by my wife and daughter. It started where my daughter did it all the time, and I liked it because she ran around the house, did all these dances. It's really active, right? She's sweating, she's making all this effort thinking about creative ideas, and I'm like, this is really cool!
And after you know, I get involved in one of them. And the next thing you know, this is very good. Now, every day, she's like "OK, Dad, what time do we do our TikTok?" And I'm like, "Well, I don't know." And then it's like, "Oh, you don't love me anymore." It's just pressure from TikTok colleagues with her every day.
So I made a couple on my own and she didn't like that. So now, like, I can't do it on my own, I have to wait and do it on my own. But she is the type of person we are doing TikTok with together and she will tilt the phone so that she is looking at her and only half of my body. She just wants me to be in the background for her. She wants all the spotlight.
But do you know what? It's an unbelievable thing to do with her, because hearing her laugh and laugh when I try to dance or do some kind of rap is priceless. That's why I do it. I do this because she has so much fun. I am not the best dancer. I do stupid things. And she laughs out loud. And it’s so fun to do with her.
ESPN: It looks like a way out for some NHL players at the moment.
Bieksa: It's just fun and silly to do. There are different things you can do – the dances, the phrases. There are many different things that you can do. I think quarantine has a lot to do with it, because the guys have a lot of time on their hands and you see yourself just flipping through, and it gets addictive. But I think it will decrease a little. I think it's kind of geared towards the younger generation. I think it will decrease as soon as the quarantine is lifted. But it's fun for now.
ESPN: Which of your former teammates do you think will be the best coach?
Bieksa: Alex Burrows is training at AHL now. He's playing the power game for Laval. I think he wants to make progress. Manny Malhotra, would be a very good coach, if you are talking about the main coach. It balances the knowledge of hockey by being able to interact with players and communicate. He's a serious captain all the time.
He also has the face and appearance of an NHL coach. I don't know if he wants to do that. I don't think it does. But he would be a really good coach.
ESPN: Which of your former teammates will be the best future GM?
Bieksa: I was with him last night. I also don't know if he would like to do it, but Ryan Getzlaf. He just looked. He sits with a stomach in his mouth and makes decisions and just delegates. That's what he does best, he says. You do this, you do that. Go get me this guy. Go get me this guy. I will sit down with a friend on the golf course and supervise.
ESPN: Which of your former teammates will be the most successful in your second career that has nothing to do with hockey?
Bieksa: Well no[[[[Ryan Kesler], because he lives in Michigan. There is no trade in Michigan. I will say Andrew Cogliano. I just think he is a really astute guy and he will find a way to have a very impactful post hockey career. I don't know what will happen, but I feel that he is just a successful guy and that he has a good contagious attitude.
ESPN: And he never takes a vacation, obviously.
Bieksa: Yes, he will work hard. He was the funniest guy for dinner on the road, because he looked at his watch all the time, because his body is so neat. He had to be in his room at any given time to stretch. And you're looking at it while dinner goes on and on. He is massaging his legs under the table and thinks, "How are your legs? Mine are tight now." I'm like, "Shut up, Cogs, just relax. Okay? You played 900 games in a row. Take a deep breath."