He’ll no doubt be hearing catcalls in enemy rinks, even more now that he’s given them some fodder.
At times, he’ll be the butt of jokes about his weight. As if he wasn’t already.
But when he walks into the Winnipeg Jets dressing room for the first time since his brush with the law in Minnesota, Dustin Byfuglien will command the same respect from teammates as he did before.
In the first reaction from a teammate to the star defenceman’s arrest on suspicion of boating while impaired, veteran goalie Chris Mason says there’s no reason Big Buff won’t continue to be a leader and key contributor on the Jets.
“No reason, whatsoever,” Mason told the Sun, Friday. “Anyone that I’ve ever known has made mistakes, small or big or whatever they may be. I’m a strong believer in redemption and being able to prove yourself.
“I know the kind of guy he is. He’s going to do everything he can to redeem himself. He’ll still be a huge contributor, leadership-wise and on the ice for our team.”
As the NHL’s top goal-scoring defenceman, and with a Stanley Cup ring on his finger, Byfuglien doesn’t have to reach far for respect.
The fact he’s 6-foot-5, 265 pounds, give or take a month or two of summer vacation, commands attention, as well.
These days, the 26-year-old from Roseau, Minn., doesn’t have to look far for a little sympathy, either.
“I feel for him,” Mason said. “He made a mistake. Unfortunately, when you’re in the situation that he’s in, everyone’s going to hear about it.”
That’s just the way it is with celebrity, and Byfuglien is one in Minnesota and Winnipeg.
In Atlanta, where he used to play, not so much.
“We probably wouldn’t even be asked about it,” fellow Jet Bryan Little said.
Milt Stegall always used to tell me parents shouldn’t make pro athletes out to be role models for their kids.
Because they’ll screw up — just like the rest of us.
“You have a responsibility to be a role model,” Mason said. “And at the same time you’re still a human being and you make mistakes and that’s how you learn.”
BILLBOARD WARS: The Blue Bombers have obviously learned, joining in the latest CFL trend of dueling billboards (insert banjo music, here).
Just in time for the Labour Day/Banjo Bowl double whammy, the Bombers rented an electronic billboard on Albert Street in Regina, mocking the Riders record compared to Winnipeg’s.
“We love our Saskatchewan neighbours. They’re just a little backwards,” reads the sign, above the two teams’ records: 1-7 and 7-1.
Not bad. Can’t help but wonder, though, if this kind of thing makes head coach Paul LaPolice wince.
The Eskimos took out a billboard in Calgary this week, too, showing an Edmonton fan riding a Stamps fan.
Riderville started this trend back in ’02, taking out billboards in opposing cities, with slogans like, “We walk among you,” and “Hey Bomber fans, we’ll save a section for you.”
Hate to say it, but the front offices are becoming better trash talkers than many of the players.
UNDERCOVER HOT: I’ve been thinking how much better off we are having stolen the Thrashers from Atlanta than we would have been with the Coyotes.
This is a team loaded with young talent, and it’ll be fun watching it grow up.
One thing about the Coyotes I’d like, though, is regular interviews with Paul Bissonnette, one of the more engaging types in the game.
Remember when Bissonnette said Canadian women were “undercover hot?”
I asked a couple of Jets about their first impressions of our fairer sex, and got whistled for interference.
“I have a girlfriend,” forward Bryan Little objected. “I will say no comment. I’m not getting into trouble.”
For more on this critical issue, and other first impressions from some of our new Jets, peek under the cover of Sunday’s Winnipeg Sun.