MEDICINE HAT, AB — Last summer, Gary Haden took up kickboxing to better prepare him for the 2017-18 season.
This time around, not only did the Tigers forward switch out his boxing gloves for a new conditioning-focused regime, but he also did something many junior hockey players don't do during the summer — work a full-time job.
"My parents finally told me to get a real job," The Airdrie-product said with a smile. "I worked at a golf course which was lots of fun for about three years."
Haden was offered a job with an electrical company out of Calgary, working 40+ hours per week.
"It was lots of fun, I learned lots," he continued. "I only blew myself up once, it was scary."
"I was putting on plugs and switches," he laughed. "I went to pull a temporary dryer panel off. Thought it was off, and it was on. Pulled out the screw, and bang!
"Black nails for about a week, didn't tell my mom about that one. You learn that electricity carries a lot of damage with it, so you learn to be careful, but it was lots of fun."
Ironic, considering Haden lit the lamp a career-high 17 times last season, part of a breakout 42-point campaign.
Now that his finger nails have returned to a normal colour, he's ready to tear into a new campaign, saying despite working a full-time (sometimes painful) job, he put in a ton of off-season preparation.
"I really wanted to get faster because the game's getting faster and if you can't skate, you can't keep up," the 19-year-old continued. "I worked out of south Calgary with a sprinter and we did lower body all day, then I did upper body by myself.
Some long days for sure, working 7:00 to 3:00 and then working out for a couple hours a day, but it was worth it."
Now he's leaving behind his tool kit, and shacking up for the long-haul with the reigning Central Division Champions. He says raising personal expectations is basically a requirement each season. With his overage campaign one year away, he wants to leave a statement.
"I really want to be in this league as a 20-year-old," Haden added. "I'm doing everything everything I can to hopefully stick around and have a really good year."
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