Tonight, the Winnipeg Jets will play their first game in Toronto since moving from Atlanta.
Today, they experienced what it’s like to be the visiting Canadian team at the Air Canada Centre.
James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail reported that a “mass of 40 or 50 reporters, cameramen and other media personalities” were in the Jets’ dressing room today — a far cry from what players normally experienced when they were Thrashers.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jets forward Bryan Little said. “Usually when Atlanta went on the road, it was pretty a empty dressing room. Now it’s kind of the opposite. It’s hard to get around in here.”
For Jets like Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Tanner Glass and Ron Hainsey, this is nothing new. Playing in the hockey hotbeds of Toronto, Chicago, Boston, Vancouver and Montreal prepared them for throngs of media both pre and postgame.
But for players that spent their entire careers in Atlanta — Little, Zach Bogosian, Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane, Ondrej Pavelec and Jim Slater (the longest-tenured Thrasher/Jet on the team) — it’s an eye-opener.
“It’s really crazy,” Little added. “It’s a whole different level [of attention] than what we were used to in Atlanta. It’s not bad. It has its ups and downs. It’s nice to have the attention and following for once but at the same time it puts a little more pressure on the team.”
— Ondrej Pavelec, who was the first star in Winnipeg’s win over Pittsburgh Monday night, will get the start in goal. James Reimer will go for Toronto.
— Evander Kane will return to the Jets lineup after a one-game absence.
— With Ron Hainsey out for two weeks with an upper-body injury, Derek Meech will make his regular-season debut on the blueline tonight for Winnipeg.
— Maple Leafs rookie Jake Gardiner will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last two games. He’ll replace Cody Franson.