Jets captain Ladd finds a home

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:57 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Andrew Ladd made his first mistake as captain of the new Winnipeg Jets, Tuesday.

Despite having a wedding to plan, a house to buy and a life to move, the $22-million man said the Jets first home game is hard to get off his mind these days.

“To say I haven’t been thinking about our first game next year and what the atmosphere in that rink is going to be like, I’d be lying,” Ladd told a media conference call, after signing a five-year contract extension with the Jets. “It’s been on my mind a lot. It’s something that’s really driving the excitement in my life right now.”

That’s when somebody with more experience at these things suggested perhaps his wedding, July 17 in Las Vegas, should be top of mind. You know, in the interests of peace and love on the home front.

“You’re right, I should probably say that, actually,” a chuckling Ladd said. “I guess you get caught up in it.”

That’s all right. Saying he’s excited about playing in Winnipeg will get the 25-year-old all kinds of love, here.

So will signing a long-term deal and sinking some roots down.

A restricted free agent, Ladd could have played the arbitration card, settled on a one-year contract and eyed the bonanza of the wide open free agent market down the road.

But after two trades already, and now a third move forced by the sale of his team, the six-year NHL vet, a product of Maple Ridge, B.C., is ready to settle down. In more ways than one.

“It seemed like every time I got comfortable with the city I was in and the people that were there ... I was getting shipped out to a different place,” Ladd said. “To be able to settle down and meet people and get ingrained in the community with my fiancée is going to be exciting.”

Getting Ladd to commit, long-term, was critical for this franchise, too.

Honeymoon period or not, the Jets, after looking like the nervous teenager at the dance in the first days of free agency, had to grab somebody of note by the hand and prove they had some moves.

“With Ladd making the commitment he did, and the organization making the commitment to him, that speaks volumes for what we potentially have going here,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said.

From his first trip here to meet the team brass — Cheveldayoff, assistant GM Craig Heisinger and owner Mark Chipman — Ladd says he felt comfortable. And convinced they know what they’re doing.

Working on him behind the scenes was his agent, Winnipegger Mark McKay, who showed Ladd and his bride-to-be around some of our nicer neighbourhoods, at the same time debunking some Manitoba myths.

Yes, Ladd acknowledged, many NHLers have misconceptions about the ’Peg.

“It falls on the same lines as Buffalo, in terms of maybe gets kind of a bad rap,” he said. “But when guys play there... they’re going to grow to love it and make it home. The people that are there are a big part of it, down to earth and really friendly, which helps out, especially with guys with families.

“There’s lots of different areas on the river that are pretty neat. Just seeing how quickly you can get everywhere is nice after being in Chicago and Atlanta.”

Ladd will likely sink a few of those new dollars into some local real estate.

Perhaps more importantly, he’s finally found a hockey home.

“My family can jump on a flight and get there pretty quick. My fiancée (she’s from Red Deer, with family in Saskatoon) has lots of family in the area, too. It’s going to be great for both of us.”

Ladd was on a roll, now, saying all the right things.

Yes, opening night for the Winnipeg Jets captain should be quite something.

Maybe even the start of a long and wonderful relationship.


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