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After 14 years, Hartnell still has the nerves on first day of practice

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Scott Hartnell is 32 years old and has been through more than a dozen NHL training camps, but he’s not afraid to admit that there were some nerves today.

While he has been skating in Columbus the past two weeks with some of his new teammates, he admitted that he started to get anxious during Thursday’s medical testing and team meetings. This is a new environment, a new beginning for Hartnell and one that he’s rather excited about.

Not only will he be looked to for leadership and a veteran presence on one of the NHL’s youngest teams, Hartnell has a lot to offer the Blue Jackets -- and particularly so offensively. He was a regular 20-goal scorer during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers and earned a reputation for playing an ornery, in-your-face style that, in particular, didn’t make many friends with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

On a young and burgeoning Blue Jackets team, Hartnell was trying to take it all in and learn as much as he could on Day 1.

“I think I am the elder statesman,” Hartnell said with a laugh. “It is a little bit different. It seems like yesterday I was going to my first camp in Nashville, and you fast forward a bunch of years and here I am in Columbus. I’m real excited about the opportunity here, I’m real excited to be here and I’m excited about the team, most importantly.

“Last year, this team was hard to play against and I can add a little veteran presence and leadership…hopefully that youthfulness rubs off on me and makes me feel a little younger, too.”

It was a fast-paced and demanding practice right out of the gate, but not too many players were surprised by it. All the talk during the offseason and leading up to training camp has focused on the Blue Jackets’ desire to be a faster team in 2014-15, and that doesn’t just mean being fleeter on their skates.

Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said there are two primary ways to play quicker, either with the feet or with the mind. On Friday, they worked on both.

“It was hard…Richie had a good practice and we were skating a lot,” Hartnell said. “That’s one thing he emphasized before practice and that’s that we want to be a quick team. You have to get your feet moving and get that mentality right away. I think everyone did a good job of working hard and working smart and we had a great practice.

“(The system) combines a lot of hard work and focusing on what your position’s all about. But it’s nice to get the first day over with; I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of months, what it would be like, meeting the guys and the nerves and all that stuff. It was a great day. I had a couple young guys ask if I get nervous and I said ‘yeah, there are still a few butterflies after 14 years.’”

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