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BY DON SCOTT

Liam O’Brien was never drafted into the NHL, but was invited to Washington’s training camp in 2014 and made enough of an impression to make his NHL debut with the Capitals on Oct. 8, 2014, against the Montreal Canadians that established his aggressiveness.

During a recent news conference, O’Brien, who was initially signed as a free agent in October of 2014 to a three-year entry-level contract and is currently signed to a one-year, two-way contract for the current season said, “I haven’t delved into what I’ll be doing when this season ends. My main focus is to win a Calder Cup here in Hershey or maybe get another call-up. Right now I’m under contract to the Capitals but it looks like whatever happens is being pushed back.

“As far as resuming the season, I don’t think any team has any advantage over any other,” continued O’Brien. “I think we know how good of a team we are and will have a lot of fun and have a lot of healthy bodies. It will take some time because we haven’t been on the ice for a while and will have to restructure our systems. It would be tough to just jump right into it without some type of camp workouts. It would also be weird to start a new season without getting the playoffs in and losing part of the regular season.”

When asked about how and when he found out about the AHL’s decision to shut down the season in mid-March, he replied, “It was crazy when we heard about it while we were practicing for the weekend games coming up with Toronto and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and realized it meant we wouldn’t be playing that weekend.

“The toughest part is not having a timeline and not knowing if we will or will not be playing,” O’Brien added. “At the same time we still have to train and prepare like we will be playing. The guys get two to six weeks off in the summer before heading back to training so I feel everyone is doing what they have to because this is their job.”

Now in his sixth season with the Bears, O’Brien is an alternate captain who feels part of his job during the current situation is to keep in contact with a lot of his teammates to see how they’re doing and make sure they are keeping in shape to be ready when they get back together to start playing again.

“Personally, I’ve found ways to deal with things like my medication, yoga or simply getting outside to take a walk or run,” O’Brien said. “I’ve been doing a lot of meditation things like game situations, stick handling to keep the hands moving and I definitely recommend that people who are struggling with staying confined to their house should find things to keep them busy to keep their mind and body moving.”

“Unlike most of the other guys, my girlfriend and I are still in Hershey because we decided it was probably the safest place for us to be,” O’Brien added. “We have been doing a lot of puzzles because a New York company sent us about six of them. We also have watched all the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies again plus cooking a lot and working out just to keep busy.”

Over the years, O’Brien, who will turn 26 on July 29, worked to become a consistent player and influential veteran for the Bears. To date, he has played 370 games for the Bears scoring 137 points on 63 goals and 74 assists.

His next point this season will give him a career-high of 30.
Throughout his career, O’Brien had difficulty with his plus/minus stats that usually were on the minus side. This season he is a career-high plus 14, which is a huge change from a minus 12 last season.

Another plus for him is his influence on the younger players with the Bears who are trying to improve and move up to the NHL. Not only is he hoping to increase his chance of returning to Washington but he is also helping the organization’s other future players do the same thing.

When asked about his opinion on one of the league’s ideas of playing multiple games in a day at one site, he laughed and replied, “It would be like going back to when we played pee wee games in Montreal that way. It would be really interesting if that’s the way they decide to go. It would be a cool thing to try and I feel the guys would make the best of it.”

He stated the December game with Springfield where the team came back was probably the highlight game of the season for him and a huge character win for everyone because the feeling after that one was pretty special.

“From top to bottom I don’t think our team has any weaknesses,” O’Brien said. ”We’re a tight group who had a lot of fun together and that’s usually the type of team that wins championships, so I’m hoping we get back to playing again this year.”

Summing everything up, O’Brien did indicate there was one downside to the season’s mid-March suspension for him. “It’s kind of a bummer that one of the things that didn’t take place was the handing out of my bobblehead in the March 25 game. Hopefully, we can get that done because it is awesome!”

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