LOS ANGELES — In case you missed it, now former Los Angeles Kings left wing Dustin Penner, who became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, signed a one-year contract valued at $2 million with the Anaheim Ducks on July 16, returning to the team he began his National Hockey League career with, not to mention the team he won his first Stanley Cup with in 2007.
Penner joined the Kings when he was acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers on February 28, 2011, in exchange for defenseman prospect Colten Teubert, a first round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and a conditional third round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
During his tenure with the Kings, Penner quickly become known for his sense of humor, and quite often, he had a good quip or humorous comment for the media.
Penner’s tenure with the Kings got off to a rather poor start, scoring just two goals and adding four assists for six points in 19 regular season games. He also scored a goal and added an assist for two points in six playoff games.
Penner was heavily criticized for his poor play, which was primarily due to a rather obvious lack of conditioning. But to his credit, he got himself into the gym right after the 2010-11 season ended, providing the first set of “Penner-isms.”
“They tricked me into starting to workout three weeks after the season ended,” Penner joked during an interview on July 12, 2011. “No, I’m just putting it politely. I’m on a new team, and I see the potential that we have, especially now, after the trades. It motivates everybody, not just me.”
“I’ve always enjoyed training,” Penner added. “It’s just a matter of getting there. When you live in Newport Beach, it’s a one hour drive, and I never use the carpool lane.”
Penner made that drive three days each week.
“I bargained for three days a week, to save money on gas, and to save the environment, because I’m going green,” he said with a big grin. “I come up here for the big days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I’m usually up around [6:45 AM]. It takes about an hour to get here, and then I workout from about 8:00 to between 11:30 and 1:00 PM, depending on what kind of workout it is. It’s about a six-and-a-half hour day.”
Then came the lunges.
“We started doing [lunges over] 1,000 [yards] in the third week of May,” Penner noted. “I said, ‘are you kidding me?’”
“[Then Kings strength and conditioning coach Tim Adams] said, ‘wait until July,’” Penner added. “Now we’re doing 2,000 [yards]. I can’t wait for 1,000 [again].”
“After that, and after we regain consciousness, you have six to eight exercises [back in the weight room]. That’s another hour or hour and a half.”
Just prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, the Kings held their annual Hockeyfest at Staples Center on September 13, 2011.
Penner was, once again, in rare form, when he was asked about his conditioning after spending much of the summer in the weight room.
“I lost a bit of my tan,” Penner said, joking about the long hours. “I had a pretty good one in June.”
Penner, who owns a home in Newport Beach, California, was making the more than forty-mile trip (each way) to the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, the Kings’ practice facility, for his workouts. That summer, he moved to Hermosa Beach, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
“It’s very stressful, driving the carpool lane without someone in the passenger seat,” Penner joked about the long commute from Newport Beach.
“We had a nice conversation,” Penner deadpanned. “You just pay the fine. There’s no demerits, your insurance doesn’t go up. It’s a slap on the wrist. But it’s good for the state, right, because there’s a budget crisis?”
Elliott continued to play the straight man role, saying, “So you’ve helped our state?”
“Willingly,” Penner responded.
Days later, when the Kings opened their 2011-12 training camp, Penner was asked about his weight.
“I tried this new thing where I close my eyes when I step on the scale, so I don’t find out until the media guide comes out,” he quipped. “It’s more exciting that way, so I don’t know, either. We could have a watch party when it comes out.”
Penner was asked about his weight because it was evident that his strength and conditioning work had paid off. He was also noticeably faster and quicker during pre-season games than at any point during the previous season…maybe even in his NHL career.
Penner talked about a faster cruising speed, and being able to create separation. Then, he talked about the advantage of having greater speed.
“You can have the best hands in the world, but if you don’t have any speed, you’re literally stick handling in a phone booth…because you’ll stay there.”
That was a new one, that’s for sure.
Early in the 2011-12 season, Penner suffered through various lower body injuries that kept him out of the lineup in the first handful of games.
With the injuries behind him, Penner played a regular shift during a 5-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues at Staples Center on October 19, 2011, contributing an assist.
“I skated well, I thought, pretty pain-free,” he said.
But then, as it often does, the Dustin Penner Comedy Hour kicked in.
“It took four Aleve, two Celebrex, and two other, unspecified drugs,” he quipped.
Fast forward to the 2012-13 NHL Lockout, Penner talked about his decision not to play hockey in Europe while waiting for the NHL to get back onto the ice.
“For me, to sum it up the best, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”
Back to his conditioning…prior to the start of the abbreviated 2013 NHL season, Penner was asked about his conditioning coming off a very uncertain 2012 off-season.
“[My conditioning] is good,” he replied. “After last year, it’s a fresh start.”
Before those of us in the media scrum could ask a follow-up question, Penner added, “I could throw a bunch more clichés at you, but I’m tired.”
Once the 2013 NHL season began, Penner found himself out of the lineup quite a bit, and on January 30, 2013, he talked about his situation.
“I’m enjoying [the extra work in practice],” he said. “I have a new outlook on life. I’m in a good place, professionally, mentally, and emotionally. It’s a lot easier to take this now than it was last year.”
“It’s not something I’m seeking counseling about,” Penner said, with a grin. “It’s part of the profession, the business we’re in. It’s a win first, team first organization. I’m waiting like a dog in a car, waiting to be let out.”
Penner also indicated that he and Sutter have spoken frequently about his situation, and what he needs to do to change it in a positive manner.
“There’s been [daily] communication,” Penner noted. “It’s not like we’re avoiding each other in the halls.”
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