Meech earns spot with Jets

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:25 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The suspense has been lifted for Derek Meech.

On Monday morning, the 27-year-old Winnipegger was told by Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel that he had earned a spot on the opening-day roster.

Its nice to kind of know whats going on and know that Im going to be around here for a bit, an elated Meech told reporters. Its definitely a load off the mind for sure. I still have to battle to get in the lineup and that sort of thing.

After spending the past seven seasons in the Detroit Red Wings organization, Meech took a bit of a flier by inking a one-year, two-way deal with his hometown team.

It turns out the small gamble paid off and Meech is one of eight defencemen to start the season with the Jets.

Im a specialist at this role now, quipped Meech, who has been an extra blue-liner at various points in his NHL career. Ive been around for a while and it was kind of my thing in Detroit. Its a tough league to crack, theres a lot of good players out there and Im just really fortunate to be able to do it in my hometown now.

Its very rewarding. I worked very hard this summer and had a lot of motivation. To get to start here in Winnipeg at the beginning of the season is a really good thing.

Meech admits to having a little extra jump in his step while playing in front of the rabid hometown fans.

Its already pushed me personally in camp, stepping on the ice and hearing the roar of the crowd, said Meech. Theyre very prideful fans in Winnipeg and were looking to do our best and make them proud.

Meech also took some time on Monday to reminisce about growing up and dreaming about playing for the Jets.

That was a very important thing for me as a kid, he said. I remember being out on the street and saying you were Teemu Selanne or whoever it was. To be in a position where Im actually playing on the pro team in my hometown is a really special thing.

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff praised Meech for having a strong training camp.

Hes someone that has tremendous flexibility and has experience at the NHL-level, said Cheveldayoff. He can play forward, can play defence, is a tremendous person. Hes earned an opportunity.

The other Manitoban sticking around remains in limbo, as forward Troy Bodie of Portage la Prairie continues to wait to hear if hes in the plans for the Jets.

He was on the ice again on Monday, but still didnt have a contract in hand, leaving him to wonder what the future would bring.

I havent heard anything, said Bodie. Im just trying to do what I can on the ice and try not to think about it. Its really up to them and what theyre thinking and Im just going to go with the flow.


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