COLUMBUS – James Wisniewski peered around the cameras surrounding his locker stall, cracked a smile and shouted over to Jason Day a few stalls down: “You’re flying to Buffalo with us!”
Ok, maybe he’s not, but after his very first skate, it was evident that Day is on the right track. The 25-year-old Australian is one of the premier golfers on the PGA Tour and makes his home in Westerville, and has become good friends with several Blue Jackets players and most notably so with Wisniewski.
They’re both members at Muirfield Village and played roughly 30 rounds together this year, but until today, had never been on the same sheet of ice.
During last weekend’s Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village, Wisniewski and Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson floated the idea of bringing Day out for a practice. Then it developed into skating with the guys after practice and away they went. It capped off a great weekend for Day, who was one of the bright spots for the losing International squad.
The PGA Tour's famous slogan is "these guys are good," but after one skate with the Blue Jackets, Day is giving them an emphatic right-back-atcha.
“Man, it was tough,” Day told BlueJackets.com while cooling off in the Blue Jackets dressing room. “I thought I was going to be one of those people that just holds on to the glass the whole time. I think I did alright for being out on the ice for the first time ever, but I had these boys helping me.
“It’s kind of a new appreciation for how skilled these guys are; they obviously work hard, but to do what they’re doing on thin blades and make it look like they’re running around and the puck control is amazing.”
Though it was Day’s first time on skates, he isn’t a total hockey rookie. He catches as many Blue Jackets games as he can while traveling, and last year, got a hockey stick from one of the players and started working on his shot.
He and his wife Ellie welcomed their first child, Dash, in 2012 and ever since the little guy has learned to walk, Day has spent some time with him shooting tennis balls in the basement. It’s not quite an NHL-caliber wrist shot yet, but Wisniewski said Day’s unpredictability had Curtis McElhinney fooled on a couple of occasions.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, an avid golfer in his own right, was impressed with Day's hockey skills and got a kick out of Day's first on-ice question.
"You realize how hard (hockey) is and how fast these guys do it and plus the risk," Richards said. "There's serious risk to your body. I think you get a great appreciation for it. Having said that, when I watch (golfers) on TV, there's a real appreciation for what they do in their sport. We all golf; it's easy to golf and you can go anywhere and golf in any town you want to go. It's not always easy to get into a hockey practice...you can golf by yourself.
"It wasn't that he didn't have an idea, but you could see (Day) was trying to figure it out. I heard him ask one question, and that was 'how do I stop?' You just run into the boards - that's what you teach young kids."
And with time to spare before the Tour schedule kicks back into gear, Day was thrilled to spend a day doing something he’s wanted to for quite some time.
“I was waiting for the (PGA Tour) season to end, and I’ve got about a month to two months off,” Day said. “If I did hurt myself, I’ve got some time to relax a little bit. But it’s good to get out there with the boys. This is the start of their new season and it was a real treat to be out skating with them.”
Just because he’s a nice guy, Day volunteered his services in case Todd Richards needs some assistance on Thursday night.
“I’m a tough guy…I had a fight against (Boll). I think I’ll either take Wiz’s spot or Boll’s spot, but maybe I can be an assistant like (Dubinsky) and see how it goes.”