EDMONTON - The trade took David Booth by surprise.
Having played his entire career for the Florida Panthers, it took a while for the winger to process the fact he’d been shipped off to the furthest point away on the NHL map.
He wasn’t above admitting there were a few tears shed after finding out.
“It was tough, there were a lot of emotions involved and I never really expected it,” Booth said prior to making his Vancouver Canucks debut Tuesday against the Edmonton Oilers. “I wasn’t prepared for it, but on the other hand, it’s very exciting to come to a winning organization and a team that plays so well.
“There are a lot of winners on this team. So far, it’s been great and I’m really excited to play for the Canucks.”
Booth, 26, didn’t have a lot of time to say goodbye to his brother, who he lived with in Florida before getting on a plane for Vancouver.
He practised with the Canucks for the first time on Monday and was inserted into the lineup alongside Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins on the team’s second line.
“We know he’s excited to be here and that excitement will show around the players,” said Canucks associate coach Rick Bowness. “The players will embrace him, we all know he’s here to help our hockey club and he’s going to be given every opportunity to help us do that. He’s a big man with great wheels and we’re all anxious to see how that all fits into our team’s scheme of things.”
Selected by the Panthers in the second round — 53 overall — of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Booth had gotten off to a slow start this season with just an assists in six games.
The Canucks are hoping a change of scenery jumpstarts the former 31-goal scorer. They have no intention of easing the Detroit native into the lineup.
“We’re just going to let him go, he’s a veteran, he knows how to play the game,” said Bowness. “He’s been playing with Kesler, who’s a great player in his own right. He’s going to be playing with two great players, we brought him in here to play and he’s going to play.”
Having grown up playing with Kesler and familiar with Higgins during their time with the U.S. national junior program, there are recognizable faces in the Canucks locker room that will help Booth assimilate to his new team.
He actually knows more players in the Canucks’ room than he did at the start of the year with the Panthers.
“I’ve played with a lot of guys here, and in Florida there were so many new guys,” Booth said. “It was just part of the process. I got used to it there and I’m going to have to get used to it here. These guys have been great so far.
“I know there are expectations here that are maybe higher than other places. I know that’s a factor here and I’m ready to take the challenge.”
Apart from higher expectations in Vancouver where the club came within a win of the Stanley Cup last season, Booth also knows the level of scrutiny will be more intense.
In Florida, hockey takes a back seat to the four other major sports in North America.
In Vancouver, the Canucks run the town.
“It’ll definitely be a different experience for me,” Booth said. “We’ll see how it goes, but it’s part of the game and part of the job. That’s fine for me.
“It’s different, I don’t think I ever did an interview in a morning skate in Florida. This is fun. This is the polar opposite, night and day from one another. It’s quite cool, I’m enjoying it so far. There is a lot expected here and that’s what I’m excited about.”