September 16, 2011
Time for Jets to get down to business
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Three and a half months ago, Mark Chipman stood at the podium and announced NHL hockey was coming back to Winnipeg, setting off a wave of celebration that has grown with each passing day into a virtual tsunami of excitement.
For some Winnipeggers it feels like time has flown by since that moment, like one of those jet planes on the new team’s logo, for others it’s moving like a combine on the highway, far too slowly for their NHL hockey-starved liking.
For players who wore the Atlanta Thrashers colours last year and will open their first training camp as Winnipeg Jets today, it seems like it was just yesterday, in relative terms.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind with everything that’s been going on,” Jets captain Andrew Ladd understated Thursday after a team skate at the MTS IcePlex.
“There’s been so much talk and anticipation, it’s going to be nice to just get on the ice and just focus on hockey.”
Friday, a minimum of 43 players will take their medicals and physicals at MTS Centre and will be on the ice Saturday for the first official time as members of the Winnipeg Jets.
While most of the players have been in town skating for quite some time, have spent their summer preparing for and carrying out this move to a new, hockey-mad Canadian city and have been talking ad nauseam about what it means to be a Winnipeg Jet, Friday the story stops being about the relocation and more about winning hockey games.
“We have to have that attitude for sure,” Ladd said. “It’s business time.”
Jets goalie Chris Mason was the first player to arrive in the city to get ready for the season, way back on Aug. 21. He’s been skating almost every day at the IcePlex, hoping to push incumbent starter Ondrej Pavelec once the season starts.
This day couldn’t come fast enough for Mason.
“It feels great … it’s what everyone has been waiting for since the move to Winnipeg,” he said. “Even back in May, you just kinda got excited and were ready to play right away. Now, seeing all the guys coming into town it’s exciting and everyone has really been looking forward to Saturday.”
Many of the arriving Jets have marvelled at the passion for hockey this city has, how welcome they feel in this community. It’s time to start paying that back and it all starts with having a good training camp.
“We know we’re going to have great support from the start,” veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey said. “The fans are excited, the city’s excited and it’s up to us as a group of players to use that to help us be successful and to carry that on, keep their excitement and give them something more to be excited about.”
It won’t be long before they get a chance to show the fans what they have. The Jets play their first exhibition games on Tuesday night, with half the team taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets at MTS Centre and the other half doing the same in Columbus.
“Getting a good start to training camp and a good start to the exhibition games goes a long way leading into the NHL season and having a good start there,” Ladd said.
Though the Thrashers failed to make the playoff last year after a quick start, Ladd believes the team has potential to come out of training camp hot and sustain it throughout the year.
“I expect every time we hit the ice to go full throttle,” he said. “We have enough talent here to make things happen every night and have a chance to win every game. It’s up to us to make sure we have that consistent effort night in and night out.
“Part of being a young team and evolving is learning from your mistakes and going through your growing pains. The next step is learning from that drop off in the second half and going to the next level.”