What do hockey players do during the offseason?

21. April 2014 11:00 by Tiffany Parotto in Hockey  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments ()

The playoffs are underway for professional hockey. The teams vying for the chance to take home Lorde Stanley aren't off the clock yet. But not all teams can compete. Teams that did not qualify for the playoffs, will reconvene in the fall for the 2014-15 season. Until then, the players have the entire offseason to train, vacation and relax.Maybe it is the change of pace that gives players some much-needed R&R. Whatever the reasoning, it remains proven that professional hockey players love to hit the links when they aren't on the rinks. Unfortunately, sometimes this hobby can take a dangerous turn, as players have been known to injure themselves on the fairway.Turns a lot of the pros game a mean game of golf. Perhaps it is the similarities between swinging a hockey stick and swinging a golf club that make golf such an attractive downtime activity for some of hockey's greatest  players.

Enviable handicaps

Many players have found great success on the course, at least as far as their handicaps are concerned. For those of you who aren't up on the game of golf, a "handicap" reflects a golfer's relative skill.  You want to have as low a handicap as possible.

The number is calculated based on the golfer's most recent rounds of play and signifies how far over or under par they generally play. For example, professional golfers have handicaps in the negatives, meaning, they are expected to score under par when they play.

While professional hockey players have yet to reach that pro-circuit level of play, there are a number of retired and current players who have handicaps near zero - quite an impressive feat when you consider these guys are playing on some of the best courses in the country.

The Pros with Golf Game

John-Michael Liles of the Carolina Hurricanes and Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins are probably the two best golfers out of the current crop of pro players, sporting a 0.8 and 0.6 handicap, respectively. Savard won his club championship in 2012. The championship is just the latest addition to the player's wide array of hockey accolades, which include a Stanley Cup win in 2011 and two NHL All-Star appearances. Liles will have time to perfect his game and catch up to Savard this spring, as the Hurricanes aren't in playoff contention.

Mike Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames has found his time spent on the golf green is influential to his play on the ice. With a handicap of 3.6, he finds that the nerves of steel that golfers develop can be very useful on the ice, too. There must be something to the lefty center's approach, as he his currently ranked 7th in the league for game-winning goals.

While the Washington Capital's Alex Ovechkin may be just an average golfer on the whole, he does merit a special shout out for knocking in a hole-in-one during the first round of golf he ever played.

Meanwhile the "Finnish Flash," Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks, clocks in at a very respectable 5.2 handicap. With the announcement that this will be his final season in the NHL, we can only expect that his golf game will improve in his retirement.

Offseason injuries
Just because these players are spending time away from the rink, don't think they are immune to injury. Just this past offseason, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers managed to swing a club with such force that the shaft shattered in his hands, requiring tendon surgery to his index finger.

Fortunately, Giroux has made a full recovery, managing to become one of the top scorers during the second half of the season. His injury came only a few years after Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, sustained a knee ligament injury during the offseason after he got his foot stuck between the pedals of a golf cart. He has since made a full recovery and will be an instrumental part of the Colorado Avalanche's bid for the championship during this year's playoffs.

While golf and hockey may seem like two of the most dissimilar sports out there, more and more professional hockey players are putting down their sticks and skates and picking up some clubs and spikes during the offseason.

If you could play a round of golf with any hockey player, who would it be and why? Tell us in the comments.

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