MONTREAL – Making the most of his time away from the rink, Brandon Prust has spent the better part of his offseason on home turf in Southwestern Ontario giving back and preparing for the year ahead.
Returning to his roots after a standout 2012-13 campaign in bleu-blanc-rouge, the London, ON native celebrated the launch of the Kids Kicking Cancer program at the London Health Sciences Centre Children’s Hospital in June. The six-year NHL veteran championed efforts to bring the program – designed to help children with cancer manage stress and pain through personalized martial arts coaching and instruction – to his hometown a year ago, raising funds through the inaugural Prusty4Kids Charity Golf Tournament last summer.
“I’ve done a lot of charity work back home, but I never really had anything of my own [until now],” explained Prust, who made frequent trips to the Children’s Hospital as a member of the OHL’s London Knights in the early 2000s. “When you see all the kids and what they’re going through, it really is a humbling experience. I always wanted to work with [the hospital], and they brought the program to my attention. It was definitely something that we thought would be perfect.
“As fun as it is to put a smile on people’s faces, it breaks your heart to see what they’re dealing with,” added the 29-year-old winger, who also participated in The Drew Doughty Grand Slam for Cancer softball tournament earlier this month alongside other NHLers with ties to the London area. “It’s a cause that’s always been very close to my heart.”
The same can be said about the power forward’s unwavering commitment to ensuring he’ll be firing on all cylinders come October. Continuing to work with long-time trainer Dave Moore over the summer, the reigning Jacques Beauchamp-Molson Trophy winner also recently enlisted the help of sports performance trainer Carter Walls to add several new dimensions to his fitness routine.
“I’ve been getting away from Olympic lifting. Times are changing and everything is getting more athletic, so I’m doing a lot of athletic moves and working on explosive power,” confirmed Prust, whose workouts with Walls are designed to improve balance, coordination, rhythm and timing and strengthen everything from the hip cavity and glutes to the lower abdominals, lower back, feet and ankles. “It’s all about trying new things and seeing what works for you.
“I know what my body likes, and I know what it takes to go into camp in tip-top shape,” added the 6-foot-2, 195-pound left winger, who spends three days a week at Walls’ London-based sports science lab facility alongside pros Danny and Corey Syvret and UFC fighter Sam Stout. “You really want to focus on cardio; endurance is huge now.”
That certainly applies to a player like Prust, who racked up 10 fights last season and isn’t one to shy away from going toe-to-toe with league heavyweights in lengthy – and often taxing – tussles. Primed to share those responsibilities with enforcer George Parros in 2013-14, the former third-round selection is looking forward to expanding his role even further next year.
“[George] is a very good team guy. He sticks up for teammates, and he doesn’t back down from anybody. I don’t know if anybody was more excited on this team than me when he was brought over here,” confessed Prust, who is still mending his injured left shoulder. “I think it’s good when your primary focus isn’t who you’re going to fight [on any given night]. You kind of focus on hockey and let everything else just happen.
“Obviously, I’m still going to fight a lot,” he continued. “That’s my job. That’s who I am. I like sticking up for my teammates. I like getting the boys going. But just to have that extra bit of help is great for me.”
Two months shy of the Canadiens’ season opener against the rival Maple Leafs, Prust is heading into the home stretch of the offseason looking to build on both personal and team success.
“I want to keep doing the right things that got me here, and that I proved I can do this [past] year,” mentioned Prust. “Bring a lot of energy, physicality and work ethic, kill penalties and contribute offensively whenever I can. I think I proved last year that I can play, and that I can play a lot of minutes and I want to continue doing that.
“The bar is set high, so it’s [all about] how we answer the bell and prove that we’re for real and it wasn’t a fluke,” he added. “We showed a lot of character [last season]. That’s what this team is built on. We’re going out there this year with that chip on our shoulder. I think people around the league still have some doubt, and we want to prove them wrong.”