Meech aims to go from stands to ice

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:58 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Derek Meech needed a ticket when the Winnipeg Jets played their final game back in 1996.

Now, the Winnipegger is hoping to earn a spot on the roster as they return to the NHL after signing with his hometown team on July 1.

I was there in the playoffs with my dad (Dennis), when Detroit beat us out, said Meech, a 27-year-old defenceman who has 126 NHL games on his resume during his time with the Detroit Red Wings.

It was mixed emotions. It was a fun time to be at that game and it was an honour to be there but it was also really sad at the same time.

It was tough to see them go.

In a strange turn of events, Meech spent the first seven years of his professional career with those Red Wings.

Theres a little irony there, he said. The Jets got beat out by Detroit and send them to Phoenix and all of a sudden Im signing back with the Jets after being in Detroit. Its a pretty surreal feeling.

Meech was brought in to provide depth in the organization and after spending last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League hes determined to do what he can to push for a spot on the Jets fairly crowded blue-line.

Im fired up and ready to go, said Meech, who was drafted by the Red Wings in the seventh round (229th overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Ive been around for a long time and I know how it goes. Its up to me at this point to show how I can play and if I play to the standards that Im comfortable with, then Ill be confident in knowing that Ill have some success.

During his time with the Red Wings, Meech learned plenty being around guys like Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski and had a chance to drink out of the Stanley Cup in 2008.

Meech had minor knee surgery to clean up some meniscus issues in his right knee during the off-season but hes feeling 100% right now.

It was a bit of a rehabilitation summer for me, but in this training camp, the physical testing is some of the best that Ive had throughout my career, said Meech. I feel in top-notch shape right now.

Saturdays early session drew a crowd of roughly 1,500 fans and at the end, which represented an impressive homecoming for Meech.

Its a different atmosphere, said Meech. In Detroit, it was a similar thing that goes on there but just to be back in Winnipeg, obviously in my hometown, to come out to a cheer like that was pretty cool. It was a good start. Good pace and a good first day.

As the Jets met at centre ice to chat with head coach Claude Noel, the fans broke into a Go Jets Go chant.

It was pretty funny, said Meech. Claude was trying to explain what was going on later on today and tomorrow and the chant broke out. He was kind of chuckling a little bit.

Its a great atmosphere out there and its really fun. Yeah, Ive been to a lot of games in the past and I was the one chanting Go Jets Go. I still am.


Videos

Photos