ANAHEIM, Calif. – As he walked towards the exit after his first official day of Anaheim Ducks training camp, a voice called out to Kevin Bieksa wishing him a great rest of his day. It was a nice gesture by his new teammate – Corey Perry.
It’s not like Bieksa and Perry aren’t familiar with each other. They have played against one another for the better part of a decade. Occasionally leading to little tete-e-tetes like these:
“The hockey world, it’s weird, you battle with guys for so long,” said Bieksa. “You’d think you hate a guy, you get on the same team, you realize you’re pretty much the same kind of guy and you become friends. I’ve already been out for dinner and drinks with Perry and his wife. That was weird at first, but after a while we were laughing about it all … who would have thought that me, [Ryan Kesler], and Perry would be sitting at a table having a drink together … There’s been a lot of chirps over the years we’re going to try to ignore, put on the back burner, and not bring up too much.“
That tends to be the sentiment of most players who come to Anaheim. It’s much more fun to play on the same side as Perry than it is to face him. For the next three seasons, at least, Bieksa will not have to deal defending the persnickety pest in games.
The defenseman was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks with one-year and $4.6-million left on his current contract. The Ducks promptly signed the 34-year-old to a two-year, $8-million extension the following day. With Francois Beauchemin departing for the Colorado Avalanche, the Ducks were in need of a veteran d-man with a nasty streak to play aside their younger, talented puck-movers on the blueline.
Up to this point, Bieksa had spent his entire career with the Canucks. “First few skates, skating around in the different equipment was a little surreal … [Change] is good. I’m ready for it.”
Players donned training camp shirts with the slogan “Close is not good enough” after another playoff exit short of the Stanley Cup final. The Ducks potential for success is what encouraged Bieksa to allow the Canucks to complete the trade. Anaheim is hoping Bieksa, along with the other main off-season acquisition, Carl Hagelin, are the pieces of the team needs to finally get to the promised land.
After all that he’s been through on the ice with Bieksa and Kesler, Perry too finds the whole situation funny. “It was very unexpected [to end up as friends with the two]. But that’s how the game works now. You’re enemies one day and all the sudden your friends and teammates. It’s a great addition. We’re happy to have him.”
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