ST. LOUIS PARK, MINN. - Dustin Byfuglien is taking advantage of some extra time in the great outdoors, but the Winnipeg Jets defenceman is relieved that his legal troubles are in the past, is feeling healthy and is eager to get back to work once the NHL labour impasse comes to an end.
“It was more of a pain in the ass than anything,” Byfuglien said of having a trial date set in July after being charged with driving a boat while intoxicated in August of 2011.
Byfuglien, who recently returned from a bow hunting trip to Wisconsin, was one of the 30-plus locked-out players who hit the ice at St. Louis Rec Center on Thursday morning and sat down for a 30-minute exclusive with The Sun afterward.
After missing 16 games with a knee injury last season, Byfuglien is 100% healthy and ready to go, whenever the season does start.
“The time off really helped get the knee back in better condition,” said Byfuglien, who was tied for second in scoring among NHL blue-liners with 53 points in 66 games last season. “Right now, I’m out there playing hockey, feeling good. It would be nice to get this thing going instead of sitting around (waiting).”
Going through his first lockout has been an eye-opening experience.
“It’s different, you don’t know what to expect,” said Byfuglien. “You listen, you pay attention but summer is over. You try to keep yourself occupied and keep going. I’m just out doing my thing.”
Being part of the NHLs return to Winnipeg was something Byfuglien won’t soon forget.
“Being part of that and having the patch on your jersey, you know that signifies (the Jets) coming back,” he said. “The support, the craziness that was going on in the city at the time is something to remember.”
Byfuglien, 27, also talked about dealing with his legal issues for the first time since his lawyer Mitchell Robinson reached a plea agreement back on July 23, pleading guilty to a charge for careless boating.
Byfuglien had originally been charged with boating under the influence and refusing to take a chemical test after his boat was stopped on Lake Minnetonka in August of 2011.
“It ended up being all right," Byfuglien said. "Nothing bad came out of it. It was nice to have it over and be done with it.”
Byfuglien said the potential legal trouble wasn’t a distraction for him last season.
“It really wasn’t anything that bothered me,” said Byfuglien. “It is what it is. They were trying to do what they had to do and at the end of the day, they really couldn’t do much.”
While his weight seems to be a frequent topic of conversation, Byfuglien isn’t concerned about the rampant speculation around the Twitter-verse that he’s packed on the pounds.
“I’m right around the same (as last year). Every year it’s always the same stuff and somebody is always going to comment on something,” said Byfuglien, who is listed at 265 pounds on the Jets’ official website. “For me, it’s my weight. I sit and smile at it. It doesn’t matter, as long as I’m able to move and go.”
Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler believes the criticism of Byfuglien’s weight is unfair.
“He’s a two-time All-star and he’s a Stanley Cup champion,” said Wheeler. “I don’t care if he’s 350 pounds. He’s still one of the best players out there. People can be critical, but at the end of the day, he gets the job done. He’s a winner and that’s all that matters to me.”