Brandon Dubinsky packed lightly when he made the drive from New York to Columbus in July 2012.
He had just been traded by the Rangers in a blockbuster deal to the Blue Jackets, and though he didn't know much (if anything) about the city, he set the GPS for Columbus and hit the road toward his career’s next chapter.
Dubinsky met the media, met the staff, toured the facility, and planned to spend some time working with Blue Jackets strength and conditioning coach Kevin Collins - hoping to get an idea of what he needed to do fitness-wise to be ready for training camp later in the summer.
One week turned into two weeks which turned into three weeks, and all of a sudden, Dubinsky had set up a temporary residence in a nearby hotel. But it was all because he quickly fell in love with his new home.
“I’m kind of hands-on, so I wanted to come here and understand Kevin’s philosophy on working out and what I needed to do to be prepared for camp,” Dubinsky said. “I was staying at the Residence Inn and I was there for a month, training here and getting to know some of the guys. (James) Wisniewski, Jared (Boll) and some of the guys had already been training here. It was just a good team, a good environment and those guys were great to me; I was able to go out and play golf a couple times, and really, it was the time that I spent here.
“I’ve made a lot of friends outside of playing hockey, my wife has made a lot of friends outside of the wives on the team, and those types of things make a place feel more homely than just having that inner circle of the guys on the team or just the wives on the team. It’s exceeded my expectations.”
Dubinsky and his wife, Brenna, have lived in a downtown condo since the trade but with a young family - son Brady was born earlier this year - they eventually want to move into a house and put their roots down.
Signing the six-year contract extension last week was the right move for Dubinsky and his family for many reasons, he said, but the first move in the process meant a lot to him. The Blue Jackets reached out to Dubinsky and agent Kurt Overhardt on July 1, the first day negotiations can begin with players who have a year remaining on their current contracts, and showed a keen interest in getting the process kick-started.
It gave Dubinsky further proof of the organization’s commitment to winning and locking up core pieces of the team, and it didn't take long before the two sides came to an agreement.
“I know the hockey ops guys got it done, but without Mr. McConnell, their family and (the rest of) ownership, they’re not able to make this commitment to me so I want to thank them,” Dubinsky said. “The front office has made it quite clear that they want to win here. Whether it’s signing (Horton) or trading for Hartnell, it’s something I want to be a part of. It’s just a good feeling.
“I came to a team that had 65 points, was the bottom of the basement and team that everybody wrote off as a team that was never going to be good. My goal is to go from the very bottom to the very top, and nothing will make me happier in my career to do that. I think that we’re quite capable of doing it. Ownership and the front office is going to find a way to make that happen, and that’s why I committed here and want to be here for a long time.”