Former Maple Leaf to run NYC marathon

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Nick Kypreos is running the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Former Toronto Maple Leaf left-winger Nick Kypreos is trading in his skates for a pair of running shoes as he gears up to run the ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Kypreos, who won a Stanley Cup when he played for the New York Rangers, is now a well-known hockey analyst on Sportsnet. It’s his first real foray into running since his days of doing two-mile runs during training camp.

“I haven’t done it in 15 years, so it’s been interesting,” he says. “Tough. Exciting. Tiresome. But I’m glad I committed to it.”

The 46-year-old Kypreos isn’t the first former hockey pro to toe the start line of the historic race that runs through all five boroughs.

“Nick is actually following in the footsteps of several of his illustrious teammates from the 1994 Stanley Cup team,” says Richard Finn, director of media relations and official spokesperson for race organizer New York Road Runners.

In 2011, former New York Ranger captain Mark Messier tackled the race, finishing it in 4:14:27. In 2007, goalie Mike Richter ran it in 3:54:34, and in 2006, Adam Graves ran it in 4:27:32.

“If Nick’s still competitive, as we hear he is, he’s got a couple of targets to shoot for and maybe a friendly rivalry with his former teammates,” Finn says.

Why did Kypreos choose NYC for his first marathon? “It’s where I had the most success as a hockey player,” he says. “We won a championship there, and as a New York Ranger, I certainly go back there with a ton of pride from our ’94 cup. And some of my teammates have run that race before, so I got inspired from that.”

New York’s attraction

The excitement of the Big Apple was also a draw.

“From theatre to sports, they say there’s no bigger stage than New York City. That alone was reason enough. If you’re going to do a marathon, you’re going to do New York,” he says. “It was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

Finn certainly agrees.

“There’s no city in the world like it. The diversity, the excitement… just the buzz you get walking through New York, let alone running through the streets of New York, over its bridges, through its parks,” Finn says. “We like to say, on marathon day, New York rolls out the red carpet. It runs 26.2 miles through the city streets, over its five bridges, through its parks, and it’s lined with 2.5 million spectators who treat every one of the 47,000 participants like a champion.”

Still, going from hockey to marathon running is bound to push anyone out of his comfort zone. That’s certainly true for Kypreos, who confesses he used to hate running during his hockey training camp days.

“I hated it!” he says. “You know how your mom always told you never to say the word hate? Well, I hated running. I found it hard labour. There are some people who can run easy, just like there are some guys who skate effortlessly, but for me, [running has] always been hard labour.”

Absolute Endurance helping out

But Kypreos is learning to love the sport. As he trains, he says running gets easier all the time. Kypreos is training with Toronto’s Absolute Endurance, and his plan has him running at least five days a week, including hill workouts, tempo runs and speed sessions. He’s also doing some core and strength training to get him ready for the race.

“You’ve got to train properly, you’ve got to eat properly, and there are certain running techniques that can alleviate the pressure off your back and your calves,” he says. “They teach you how to run.”

And while the marathon can be unpredictable, Kypreos is confident he can meet the challenge. His immediate goal is to cross the finish line, but he thinks he may be able to set a time goal when it gets a bit closer to the race.

“The magic word is finish,” he says. “When my training is done and I have some idea through my coach on pace or tempo, I’ll have some sort of goal… I’m a competitor. I’ve been a competitor my whole life. I’ve done it as a hockey player; I’ve competed in broadcasting. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to want to run it as well as I can.”

And, if all else fails, he can always fall back on a few of the skills he learned in hockey. “Between now and then, I’m hoping I can get to one or two of the organizers and get them to add a little full contact,” he jokes. “Take out a couple of Kenyans at the front.”

Canadians who want to catch Kypreos in his first race will be able to do so on Sportsnet, as the network has signed an exclusive deal with the race organizers to broadcast the event in Canada.