It might not have been the best choice of attire on a day when his hockey club had gathered at the Winnipeg Rowing Club for a team-building exercise.

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This article was published 5/10/2011 (3634 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Coach Claude Noel (middle) and owner Mark Chipman (third from right) were active participants Wednesday.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Coach Claude Noel (middle) and owner Mark Chipman (third from right) were active participants Wednesday.

It might not have been the best choice of attire on a day when his hockey club had gathered at the Winnipeg Rowing Club for a team-building exercise.

Then again, it could also have been viewed as brilliantly inspirational.

 

Yes, there was Jets' head coach Claude Noel barking out orders, making friendly wagers and generally being the life of the party all the while wearing a black T-shirt featuring a skull and crossbones and the message: "The beatings will continue until morale improves."

Funny dude, that Claude.

John Woods / the canadian press
Dustin Byfuglien (red cap) and his Team Beefcake members practise their stroke during a team-building exercise on the Red River Wednesday.

CP

John Woods / the canadian press Dustin Byfuglien (red cap) and his Team Beefcake members practise their stroke during a team-building exercise on the Red River Wednesday.

Following a blueprint now commonplace in the sporting world, and most certainly in hockey, the Jets opted to take a day off from the on-ice routine and gather at the historic 130-year-old rowing club on an afternoon that featured record-breaking temperatures and with the downtown skyline serving as a backdrop. The team was schooled by rowing club members and former Olympian/national team coach Jeff Powell before being split into four teams, one of them featuring the coaching staff and owner Mark Chipman, and taking to the waters of the Red River for roughly two hours.

Just for the record, Team Beefcake -- including Dustin Byfuglien, Tanner Glass, Patrice Cormier, Evander Kane, Randy Jones, Jim Slater, Mark Stuart and Kaitlin Rempel of the Manitoba provincial team -- went undefeated in two races to claim the unofficial title and dressing room bragging rights.

"That was fun, that was a lot of fun," said Stuart. "It was really hard at first, actually, to learn it. But we worked on it for about an hour and a half. It was cool. Not to be corny, but it was all about working together. It was a good team event. There was definitely some chatter beforehand and I'm sure there will be more after.

"It's nice to get away from the rink. I think that's important... obviously we need the practice time, but days away from the rink are just as important, sometimes more important, in bringing a team together.

"I figured the first time I'd be in a boat in Winnipeg would be for fishing or out on a lake ice fishing," Stuart added with a chuckle. "But we lucked out today with this weather and this event."

The Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, just FYI, headed to Maine in the last few days for kayaking and zip-lining. The Tampa Bay Lightning retreated to Mont Tremblant in Quebec for a team-building event that included eight stations, including Frisbee golf and a slingshot competition. The Columbus Blue Jackets played golf, did the paintball thing and a cookout.

A year ago the Washington Capitals travelled to the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va., while in recent seasons the Philadelphia Flyers visited West Point and the Carolina Hurricanes, then featuring current Jet captain Andrew Ladd, were drilled at Fort Bragg.

"It was tough," said Ladd of the rowing experience on Wednesday. "You watch it on TV and it definitely looks a lot easier than it was out there. It's great because it's a total team thing -- everyone has got to get balanced and rowing at the same time.

"It's nice to get away from the rink, coaches included, in a different setting and a little more relaxed. It's all about getting to know each other and working together. Obviously we know a lot of guys from last year, but there are some new guys this year and it's a little bit of a new group, coaching-wise. It's nice to get out and do stuff like this and have fun.

"It's tough to find original things so that you're not doing the same (team-building) things over and over, but this was definitely something I don't think anyone has done yet."

Noel said the light bulb first went on about this idea in August and, yes, there were concerns about what kind of day they'd get in early October in Winnipeg. But the point here wasn't just about getting together -- teams do that every time they head out on the road, after all -- it was more about having them understand how they need each other.

That lesson was hammered home on the Red on Wednesday: one rower isn't in sync, one oar doesn't do its part and a boat can struggle. And when it's all working together, it can look like... well, Team Beefcake.

"It was good. It was a great exercise today," Noel said. "You know what, I've never done this before, but it was awesome. There were so many lessons to learn and I'm just hoping that our team becomes a better team because of it. I think we will."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca