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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Vigier adds variety to practice

Keeps things lively as NHLers continue workouts at the MTS Iceplex

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HE can still motor, this guy in a navy blue sweat suit and sporting an Atlanta Thrashers helmet.

Up close, he looks a little older than the collection of Winnipeg Jets and other local National Hockey League players who gather regularly at the MTS Iceplex.

But it's clear the man has still has got some game.

Earlier this week, for example, he streaks down the right wing, gobbles up a perfect pass from Bryan Little and hammers a shot over the flashing glove of the netminder. Top shelf, just under the crossbar.

And the dozen or so skaters in attendance bust into a "Oooohhh" chorus at the highlight-of-the-night type play, accompanied by grins and laughter.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet J.P. Vigier.

Some of you may have already been introduced -- the proud product of Notre Dame des Lourdes, Man. did suit up for 213 NHL games over parts of six seasons with the Thrashers before finishing up his career in Switzerland.

But, for now, this recently-retired 36-year-old father of two young girls is the guy running the practices for the NHLers during the lockout as a part-time contractor with Focus Fitness. And he's trying his damndest to keep this bunch inspired and interested while they wait and wait and wait and...

"I was part of the 2005 lockout, but I was able to still play (with the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League), so I was able to focus on something else. Practice only goes so far. Everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to work and I have no doubt these guys would have more fun playing than just practising with me."

Vigier's drawing rave reviews for the variety in his workouts, both in the drills and the amount of work vs. fun he has implemented.

In other words, he's got natural bench boss written all over him.

Funny thing is, Vigier isn't really sure if this coaching thing is where he wants to go next.

"I'm not sure which way to go with that, to be honest," he said. "Coaches seem to move more than players and I think I might be done with that part of my life. You never know, I guess."

After four years at Northern Michigan University, Vigier spent a while chasing his NHL dream. His first pro stop was Orlando in the old International Hockey League and then over the next six years he split time between the Thrashers and their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves before heading overseas.

"I was never a top-tier player," Vigier admitted. "I was always a third-fourth liner who would kill penalties, create some energy, maybe keep my nose clean and get it dirty all at the same time, if you know what I mean."

Last summer Vigier decided his playing days were over after five years in the Swiss League.

"My year last year wasn't good enough," he said. "I was at the age where if I didn't have a good year people would say, 'Oh, he's getting old' and then they tend to stay away from you. That's what happened."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2012 D3

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