Minnesota Wild's - Justin Falk
Snowflake's Justin Falk has been spending the off-season in Manitoba preparing for the 2014-15 NHL season. While visiting relatives in the area, he has been doing on and off ice sessions with Raymond Mutcheson.
"We head out here to Southern Manitoba every weekend from the City. My in-laws live in Winkler, and my parents live here in Morden," said Falk. "There's usually a round of golf once throughout the weekend, and if it's nice we'll go on the lake or something."
Falk spent last season with the New York Rangers, and played in 21 games, picking up a pair of assists along the way.
"It was good, it was fun," explained Falk when asked about the past season with the Rangers. "Obviously, off the ice, it was a little bit of an adjustment for the family, living in a big city like that. For the team to go as far we did there, and have the experience of going through the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals, it's something that I'll remember forever and won't take for granted."
Growing up in Canada it's a lot of kid's dreams to not only play in the NHL, but have the opportunity to raise Lord Stanley over their heads, and for this small town Manitoba boy it almost became a reality.
"The rounds actually go by pretty quick," stated Falk when asked about his playoff experience. "You're playing every other day and traveling. Next thing you know every game means so much that you don't get caught up at looking at the calendar and looking at what time of the year it is. Next thing you know your in the first week of June, and you're in the Cup finals. That was a pretty cool experience. We came up a little short, but it was something a lot of the guys learned a lesson from."
During the middle of the team's playoff run one of his teammates experienced the passing of a loved one, which only brought the team closer.
"It was a very emotional playoffs," shared Falk. "Some of those guys have been to the conference finals before and some haven't. (Martin) St. Louis has won a Cup before, but to have something like that happen, you don't want to say that's what did it for us. Being down 3-1 to Pittsburgh, and to have something like that happened, it really sparked things and got things going. We rallied around that and around him and played hard, and got to the next round and got to compete for the Cup." L:R - Winkler's Byron Froese & Snowflakes Justin Falk
Being a defencemen, and having one of the world's best goaltenders to back you up, is always reassuring. This past season Falk was able to play in front of Henrik Lundqvist, who posted a 2.36 GAA and a .920 save percentage in the regular season, and stepped up his game to another level in the post season and recorded a 2.14 GAA and had a .927 save percentage.
"I still think he's the world's the best," said the twenty-five year old. "Just the athleticism he has, and the skill set he brings. His numbers speak for themselves. He had a below average start to the first half of the year and for him, to put on what he did there the last half and into the playoffs, you can't ask for anything more from a world class goalie like that."
No matter how much success a team has or a player has, whether it be having a good playoff run, winning the Cup, having a break out year, or even winning an award, it's all trumped by having a child.
"My highlight was probably having a daughter," noted Falk. "As crazy as that sounds. That really puts the whole thing in perspective, that it's just hockey, it's just a game, and that there's more to life around it. Me and my wife were blessed with a baby girl down there this year, and things are going great for family and parenthood."
On August 1st he signed a one-year, two-way deal back where his NHL career started with the Minnesota Wild.
"I just felt maybe going back to where things left off," noted the Wild's 2007 4th round pick (110th overall). "I wasn't eager to leave there. I was hoping for opportunity elsewhere, and now that the opportunity presented itself to go back, I'm hoping for a chance there to go out there and compete and work hard. That's all you can ask for is a chance."
"There were a few other teams, but when you break things down now especially with having a wife and a baby girl, you think of the family aspect too," said Falk. "You break things down and look at the different elements each team brings, what each city and location brings, and you make the best decision for your family."
This new deal may be a two-way contract, but Falk knew where ever he was going to go it was to earn a spot on a team. He's going into camp with that in mind, and noted you're not given anything even if you have a one-way contract with the team.
"My goal is to make the team, and eventually make it into a top six role, to be an every day player again," noted Falk. "I want to get games under my belt, I want to get that experience, and I want to build off of that. Even with my style of player you can be looked upon as a utility or seventh or eighth defencemen or fill in when players are injured. I want to be more than that. I'm hoping just for the chance and the opportunity, and to make the most of it."
*Photo's submitted by Raymond Mutcheson