Nine players on the Blue Jackets roster returned to the ice at Nationwide Arena today for a “practice” at the OhioHealth Ice Haus, and the mood outside the locker room afterwards was – in a word – ecstatic.
“It was like Christmas morning walking into the locker room and seeing each other again,” said Nick Foligno, who signed with the team last July as a Restricted Free Agent.
Joining Foligno today were Blue Jackets veterans James Wisniewski, RJ Umberger, Derick Brassard, Jared Boll, Steve Mason, Derek Mackenzie, Derek Dorsett, along with newcomer Adrian Aucoin. “Coach” Umberger ran the practice, keeping things organized and running drills for the skate that lasted roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. The players joked that Umberger had some coaching expertise from his time spent as a volunteer assistant coach with Ohio State in the past few months.
“He was pretty tough on us today,” Foligno joked about Umberger’s coaching techniques.
Practice wrapped up today with a fun shootout drill, and players came off the ice smiling. No sense of hesitation hung in the air as they welcomed questions from the media afterwards.
Foligno and Wisniewski talked spiritedly about the preparations of the team moving forward to get ready for games. One of the speculated challenges for teams leading up to opening night will be a shortened training camp. With the exact date of opening night still unsettled, the Blue Jackets will have to be “game ready” in a little less than two weeks.
“I’m ready right now,” Wisniewski said, who mentioned that the Blue Jackets have a lot of advantages heading into the season. According to him, the team’s stack of veteran leaders like Vinny Prospal will help them prepare mentally for games, while players who have spent the season with the Springfield Falcons will be “flying" if and when they get called up.
“We’re going to be a tight team that’s going to be in your face.”
For the players on the ice today, any disadvantage of a shortened camp is trumped by the excitement of returning to Columbus to play in front of fans at Nationwide Arena.
“Some guys said they were smiling all the way to the rink today,” Foligno said.
“I think we’re all excited and ready to start playing.”