Fowl mood for Nolan over break

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

An avid hunter, Owen Nolan took to his personal wetlands in Northern California over the all-star break.

His targets were the ducks that frequent his feeding grounds.

And he's a pretty good shot.

"I do alright," said Nolan yesterday as his team prepared to face the Dallas Stars tonight. (8 p.m., CBC)

"I have my moments. It's just like playing on the ice, you miss the empty net once in a while."

There was no missing the net in Wednesday's 5-4 win over the San Jose Sharks, when Nolan recorded his 11th career hat-trick against his former team.

The break did wonders for the veteran, who turns 36 in 10 days and switched to a stiffer flex on his stick upon his return.

"Yeah, he's refreshed," said linemate Craig Conroy. "He said (Wednesday) morning, 'I feel really good.'

"I didn't know he had a hat-trick good feeling in him."

A little rest for his sore neck helped. He wasn't even sure he'd suit up for the final match before all-star weekend, but is feeling great now.

"It helped my neck tremendously," said Nolan, who also fought Mike Grier this week.

Admittedly, his recurring stinger was in the back of his mind during the bout.

"Well, I was a little bit. I didn't want it to go on too long, especially with him grabbing my shirt. I figured it was long enough," said Nolan.

"It was the right time to do it. Maybe not the smartest thing for me to do but when you're out there, a lot of things were reaction."

With quick reaction on all three of his goals Wednesday -- a no-look backhand, a stolen clearing attempt and a diving rebound swat -- maybe Nolan should get out hunting a little more often.

The duck season coincides with hockey season, so despite now living in one of the world's best spots for hunting, the break was his first opportunity to enjoy his hobby.

He went to his acreage, about an hour and a half south of San Jose, and got down to business. Nolan sets up decoys, calls to the birds and waits before putting his hand-eye co-ordination to the test.

"They're pretty fast," said Nolan. "Some ducks are slower than others but there are some pretty quick ones out there and you've got to be on top of them."

Some would have been put off by the rain that welcomed Nolan when he arrived in California, but it put a smile on his face.

"In colder weather, they want to feed more, so they're on the water more," he said of the ducks that gather on his properties. "I think the wind gets them a little skittish. They're flying everywhere."

Born in Belfast, Ireland, but raised in Ontario, Nolan's interest in the outdoors started with fishing.

"I've been fishing since I was a kid. As I got older, I got into the hunting part," said Nolan, who appears on a show called Fish TV. "Once I went out I was instantly hooked on it."

It wasn't until his trade to San Jose he started hitting ducks. "I did a lot of deer hunting and stuff before that, but duck hunting always intrigued me. Once I got out there, it was a lot of fun."


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