Godard getting ready for Big D

Vernon’s Eric Godard, recently signed by the Dallas Stars, pushes his cardio during a spin class with Rhonda Catt at Excel Fitness. - Graeme Corbett/Morning Star
Vernon’s Eric Godard, recently signed by the Dallas Stars, pushes his cardio during a spin class with Rhonda Catt at Excel Fitness.
— image credit: Graeme Corbett/Morning Star

As an elite enforcer in the NHL, Eric Godard wins most of his fights. Loses the odd one like last year when Matt Carkner of the Ottawa Senators broke his orbital bone.

“He hit me in the right spot,” smiled Godard, after a sweat-till-ya-drop spin class at Excel Fitness Thursday morning.

He’s healthy, newly engaged to former Morning Star sales rep Myrika Schipfel and ready to begin a new NHL gig with the Dallas Stars.

Godard, who agreed to a two-year contract with the Stars in early July, had seven scraps last year with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He figures to be challenged even more in the Western Conference.

“It seems pretty active. There’s (George) Parros, (Kevin) Westgarth, (Paul) Bissonette so I should be busy. I haven’t been too busy the past couple of years. Not too many games, so I’m excited to have a chance to get some more games.”

The 31-year-old racked up 550 penalty minutes with the WHL Lethbridge Hurricanes and earned a free-agent deal with the Florida Panthers. He has the toughest job in hockey and defends his craft.

“I don’t really ever see it going anywhere. I think it belongs in the game. There’s a lot of people who don’t and that’s their opinion, I guess. It (debate on fighting) kind of goes away and it’ll come back. It fluctuates like everything else.”

The 6-foot-4, 214-pound heavyweight, who was a provincial team rugby player in his teens, got in just 19 games last year with the Pens. He pocketed three goals and 352 penalty minutes in three years in Pittsburgh, earning a Stanley Cup ring in 2009.

“It was awesome,” said Godard. “We had a place there and good neighbours and we made a few real good friends so it sucks because it was starting to actually feel like home.

“Playing with that team and meeting those guys, I kind of learned the roles teammates play and how a team comes together.”

Getting up close and personal with superstar Sidney Crosby was of course a treat. Godard says No. 87 will be back soon from concussion issues.

“He’s not too bad. It’s not like a deathwatch. He’s gonna be OK. It’s just what’s the point of pushing it in the summer?”

On Crosby as a captain, Godard said: “He’s a quiet guy. He’ll say something when he feels the need for something to be said but he’s going to be out there showing more by example. In practice too. Sometimes, we’ve gotta wait to start practice because he’s down at the other end shooting pucks.”

Godard and his fiancé organized a fundraiser Thursday at the Vernon Yacht Club for a friend’s son who is ill at B.C. Children’s Hospital. Schipfel also made a difference in Pittsburgh.

“They always had stuff with the girls, but she’s pretty active and went out on her own with Christopher’s Guests,” said Godard. “They help the families who come in for their kids with transplants if they’ve been waiting too long, just kind of get them everyday things. They have an apartment where families can stay. I think they raised $40,000 last year. She really took off with that. It was fun to watch her.”

In Dallas, Godard is going to a team with a new coach – Saskatchewan product Glen Gulutzan – and a few players from his past.

“I don’t know too much about Dallas. I know Alex Goligoski, who got traded there last year (from Pittsburgh), and I played with Adam Hardy in Calgary and Omaha.”

He likes today’s NHL, where just making the playoffs turns a team into a Stanley Cup contender.

“I watched Vancouver and Boston play, who are both good teams, but I feel we could have beat them. Anybody can do it. It’s exciting. I think what you’re starting to see is how the team dynamics work in these games. Teams are bringing in guys, more role players, to kind of complement, basically their core guys. You’re starting to see more good organizations, who build teams rather than buy teams, flourish.”

To stay one right hook ahead of the younger tough guys in the league, Godard works like his dog, Tonka, with personal trainer Rhonda Catt.

Catt says Godard and others, like Aaron Volpatti (Vancouver Canucks), Stefan Schneider (Canucks system) and Brady Brassart (Spokane Chiefs) take their training seriously.

“They’ve got to train hard to keep their jobs,” said Catt, who used to train Red Wings’ retired goalie Chris Osgood. “Nowadays, if you’re not training, it’s going to be pretty hard pressed to keep that position in the league. Everybody trains now. You have to. He’s (Godard) frigging fast. He’s fast as hell and he’s strong.

“The shape these guys are already in when they come in just blows me away so it’s great because I’m able to push them at such an incredible hard level and they’re able to do it. I love the training because there’s so much that you can do with these guys. It’s so much fun.”

The NHLers and prospects regularly do the hellish Stairway to Heaven on Okanagan Avenue.

“I hold the overall record on the stairs,” beamed the likeable Godard. “Although (retired NHLer) Steve Kelly might have something to say about that.”

In his spare time this summer, Godard has spent time visiting family, boating, hiking and camping.


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