Owen Hardy can’t wait to return to the Lower Mainland for what will soon be his fourth season with the Vancouver Giants. The product of Nanaimo, B.C. has been training harder than ever before – And that’s saying something (Video proof to come later). The self-proclaimed ‘gym rat’ set new career highs in all offensive categories a season ago and has set some lofty goals for himself and his team for 2018-19. Originally selected by the G-Men in Round 2 (42nd overall) in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, Hardy has suited up in 166 career games with Vancouver and has provided his team with a rugged, physical presence that will again be important as the Giants pursue even greater success in 2018-19. In this conversation with Dan O’Connor, Hardy talks about his love of the gym, his takeaways from last season and he also talks about two former Giants teammates that made a huge impact on him. All of that and much more can be read below in the latest Vancouver Giants Offseason Q & A feature with Owen Hardy.
DO: Some guys go to the gym because they have to. Some guys go to the gym because they love it. You have always loved it. Can you tell me about your summer of training and what you’ve been trying to focus on?
OH: I started training pretty much right away because I love it so much. I’ve definitely focused on improving my first step, and becoming more explosive because I am a bigger guy. Strength has never really been a problem for me so I’m more focused on getting quicker. But I also train not to have a ‘wheelhouse.’ My focus has been to be really good at everything and not just one specific area of training.
DO: When did this passion for the gym start for you?
OH: I can remember being in elementary school and doing pushups and sit-ups before I went to bed. I started hitting the gym regularly in Grade 7. Playing out of the North Shore Winter Club they had a gym there and we’d go as a family three-to-four days a week. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first but I’d watch YouTube videos and learned that way. And now it’s really evolved. I love doing things outside of the normal hockey workouts. I love long distance running, swimming, boxing and ju-jitsu. I love being athletic and I love using it not just for hockey.
DO: Last season for you was a successful one when you look at individual success and the success of the team. Tell me about some of your takeaways?
OH: Everybody got along. One of the big takeaways from last year was how much everybody wanted to work for each other. It made coming to the rink every day so enjoyable. Two other things had really motivated me heading into this summer: That feeling of losing Game 7 to Victoria. We were crushed. We all felt that could have won that series. That was tough to take. I’ve never had that kind of hockey heartbreak. When you’re in it and you feel like you should have done better, that stung a lot. I don’t want to let that happen again. Another thing for me was that I didn’t get drafted. I haven’t gone to a camp. But I’m not sitting around dwelling on it. I’m almost thinking “good” I have more time to get ready. It’s just forced me to work even harder. I feel like I’m right there and on the verge of a breakthrough and I’m so pumped for this year.
DO: Can you put your finger on some of the factors that made last season so enjoyable?
OH: We had so many new faces and we just clicked. Our younger players didn’t act young. There was none of that. There were so many laughs and so many good times.
DO: Do you have an individual goals for yourself this season?
OH: I’ve set some goals for myself and have had a lot of support from my family, agents and friends coming up with them. The first big one for me is to be rediculously consistent. I want to dominate every game. I want to have the mindset of trying to win every game we play. The longterm goal for me this season is to sign a contract. I know it’s a big goal but I’m not phased by it. I want to shoot for the stars. I’m in it to go all the way.
DO: Thinking back, who have been some of the most influential teammates for you over the years?
OH: So there’s been three guys for me who I have looked up. When I started in junior our captain with the Nanaimo Clippers was Devin Brosseau. He’s now at Clarkson College. When I was playing there he would constantly keep my confidence up by giving me good feedback. That was a really good start. With the Giants Ty Ronning and Darian Skeoch were both phenomenal. During my second season especially, Ty was always there, working with me and making sure I was in the right frame of mind. Same with Darian. He’s such a tough guy on the ice, but off the ice he’s such a kind-hearted, easy-going guy. Those are some guys that have made a big difference.
DO: When you look at some of the younger guys that are coming into the Giants. Is there a player that you feel is ready to breakout or somebody that you’re excited to watch and be around?
OH: Bowen Byram. I’m super pumped for him. How could you not be? He did not look or play like a 16-year-old. In my mind he’s the player I’m most excited about.
DO: Did you watch any of the playoffs once the Giants were eliminated?
OH: I didn’t watch any hockey until the Memorial Cup. You see the teams that are getting closer to a championship and you think: “We could be there. We could beat these teams.” I didn’t want to watch the playoffs until the Memorial Cup, but once that tournament started I had to watch.
DO: Are you and the guys texting and talking a bunch? Are you guys all talking about getting back to Vancouver?
OH: I haven’t stopped talking to the guys since we left. The group is insanely close. I can’t think of one person that I haven’t talked to multiple times since we’ve all been gone.
DO: Do you have a non-hockey related summer highlight?
OH: I don’t think I do because all of my major highlights involve my training.
DO: Am I safe in thinking that you and the guys have a higher expectation for this season?
OH: That’s definitely our mindset. We know how good we are. Looking around the league we see that it’s very possible that we can make a run for this. This is the big year for us.
Two other things had really motivated me heading into this summer: That feeling of losing Game 7 to Victoria. We were crushed. We all felt that could have won that series. That was tough to take. I’ve never had that kind of hockey heartbreak. When you’re in it and you feel like you should have done better, that stung a lot. I don’t want to let that happen again. Another thing for me was that I didn’t get drafted. I haven’t gone to a camp. But I’m not sitting around dwelling on it. I’m almost thinking “good” I have more time to get ready. It’s just forced me to work even harder. I feel like I’m right there and on the verge of a breakthrough and I’m so pumped for this year.