CALGARY - Shortly after winning skiing’s version of the Stanley Cup, life as he knew it changed for Erik Guay.
But not because the hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsor bonuses that came with being the World Cup’s super-G champ, or because of the elevated profile sure to make him recognizable in every gin joint in his native Quebec.
It changed because he moved to Calgary.
The fireplace mantle in his new Elbow Valley home gave him the perfect place to put his cherished crystal globe, and his new schedule and surroundings allowed him to hone other skills.
“I played a lot of hockey this summer — good hockey with a bunch of guys from the Western Hockey League,” smiled Guay of a summer spent dropping in for shinny three times a week at the Westside Rec Centre.
“I think that helped out quite a bit.”
Not in terms of advancing his NHL dreams, but in terms of staying healthy.
Plagued by back ailments the last several summers, Guay found manning the point kept him fitter than he ever could’ve imagined heading into a season as defending super-G champ.
“One of the main reasons I moved to Calgary was to be closer to my trainer,” said Guay, 29, an “offensive defenceman” who has long toted his skates and stick with him for post-race pond hockey games around Europe.
“I feel really good.”
So good in fact that the oft-injured native of Mont Tremblant, Que. is planning to add a few giant slalom races to his itinerary as his results dictate.
Canadians can be forgiven for missing Guay’s ascension to the top of the ski world as it happened weeks after the ski team’s disappointing shutout at the 2010 Olympics.
It was then Guay parlayed his anger and frustration over two fifth-place finishes in Whistler — including a super-G effort that left him 0.03 off the podium — into a season-ending spree that shocked even him.
Winning the first super-G race of his life in Norway March 7 by taking the sort of chances he’d never allowed himself to take before, Guay entered the final race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany four days later a distant third in the standings. Guay needed to not only win the race, but hope previous leader Michael Walchhofer of Austria faltered mightily. He did, finishing 15th, allowing Guay to become just the second Canadian male globe winner outside of Steve Podborski’s downhill crown in 1982.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time, as all of Guay’s sponsorship deals were expiring. They all got re-upped.
“It was really busy in the springtime — I had a lot of media interest across the country,” said Guay, clutching his crystal goblet (turn it upside down and he discovered you can drink out of it!) at a press conference at Flames Central yesterday to hype the opening of the World Cup speed season at Lake Louise Nov. 27. (The women start there Dec. 3).
“But after that it was quiet for the summer. Living in obscurity here is a good thing, too — I can do my own thing and not have to worry about it. Over in Europe, it’s like hockey over there.”
In other words, outside his native land he’s recognized everywhere.
“Funny — I got recognized in Calgary the other day but after talking to him he mentioned he’d just moved here from Montreal,” said the bilingual speedster.
“People need results to be interested in it. We’re starting to get that and I still think interest is better than a couple years ago, so it’s going in the right direction.”
As is everything else in his life.