Got grit? Jets think so

Troy Bodie says he has to fight to prove himself every year and this year the Portage native is...

Troy Bodie says he has to fight to prove himself every year and this year the Portage native is doing it with the Winnipeg Jets. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:48 AM ET

WINNIPEG - In a roundabout way, Troy Bodie is hoping the Winnipeg Jets are a team that’s lacking toughness, because there’s nothing he’d like to do more than help make up the shortfall.

Bodie, a 26-year-old left-winger from Portage, is in Jets training camp on a tryout basis after getting released by the Carolina Hurricanes in the off-season.

He’s in tough to earn a spot on a team that already has its fair share of hard-nosed players, but if there’s one thing Bodie knows, it’s fighting — fighting with his fists and fighting for jobs in the NHL.

“I fight every single year to prove myself,” said Bodie, who will suit up for the Jets in tonight’s exhibition game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at MTS Centre.

“It’s a very important game for me. I need to show them what I can do, come out and play my game, play rough and tumble. This is my opportunity.”

Bodie, who played 59 games last season with Anaheim and Carolina, has six goals, five assists and 141 penalty minutes in 107 career NHL games.

He jumped at the chance to try out for the Jets and will have family and friends in the stands tonight. Making the team will be another matter.

“The team has already got some guys that play physical, it’s just whether they feel they need more or not,” said Bodie, who had 11 fighting majors last season.

“I don’t want to limit myself to an enforcer role. I’m definitely not afraid to drop the mitts and get in there but I think there’s more to my game than just that. I can make plays and get in the zone and show flashes of offence as well as being defensive. I’m not a jack of all trades but I think I’ve got more than just being an enforcer for sure.”

One of the players Bodie is competing with for a roster spot, left-winger David Koci, is more of a pure enforcer. Koci has three goals and 461 penalty minutes in 142 career NHL games. However, he’s hurt and is not playing in tonight’s exhibition games.

There a chance neither player will make the team. The players who came to Winnipeg from Atlanta suggest there is no lack of muscle and grit.

“You go down the lineup and we have lots of grit, top to bottom,” captain Andrew Ladd said.

“Especially on our bottom-6 forwards, we have a lot of players who get in there and muck it up and really make it hard on other teams.”

Newcomer Tanner Glass, who went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final with Vancouver last season, likes what he’s seen so far, and this is a guy who fought 10 times in 2010-11 and saw plenty of the toughest team in the league — the champion Bruins — in the spring.

“One of the things I’m most impressed with is all the guys who can play physical on this team,” said Glass, pointing to players like Chris Thorburn (77 penalty minutes) and big, strong defencemen like Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart and Zach Bogosian.

Of course, the Jets players are not likely to describe themselves as anything other than gritty. Not when the alternative would suggest a weakness.

“Grittiness will definitely be one of the characteristics we have,” said forward Evander Kane, who had 68 penalty minutes last season. “You need to be a gritty team. You can’t be a soft team because you are not going to win too many hockey games in this league.”

So, there may be room for Bodie when the team breaks camp. Or maybe he’ll have to try to latch on elsewhere.

At very least he’ll have a special memory of suiting up in his home province with the Jets in their first NHL game since 1996.

“It’s very special,” Bodie said. “As soon as I heard the Jets were coming back, I was excited. I thought man, it would be great to someday play for them.”

That day would be today.


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