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As the longest tenured Jacket, Calvert notices major culture changes

It's been almost a decade since he was drafted into the organization, going 127th overall to the Jackets at age 18

by Alison Lukan AlisonL /

Ask 27-year-old Matt Calvert if he can believe he's the longest tenured Blue Jacket on the roster and he smiles. "It's crazy," he says.

It's been almost a decade since he was drafted into the organization, going 127th overall to the Jackets at age 18.

In the years since, the Brandon native has seen a lot. He's been to ten Blue Jackets training camps. After finishing out three years with the Wheat Kings of the WHL, he jumped to the AHL where he played for the Jackets' then affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, for parts of three seasons. Through the last four years, Calvert has been a permanent part of the Jackets' roster and scored 63 goals and 62 assists.

Along the way the tenacious forward has provided many memorable moments such as the overtime winner in the Jackets first playoff win in 2014. Last year, he had one of the season's best highlights when he came back from a puck to the head to score the game winner against the New York Rangers.

But with all the games, and all the goals, Calvert has seen a lot more. And it gives him a unique appreciation for what the organization has become.

Video: NYR@CBJ: Calvert nets shorthanded goal on two-on-one

"The biggest change here has been the culture," Calvert says. "I know a lot of guys say it, but I've seen it. It's all about the expectations we have."

Starting from day one of camp, things are different now if you're a Blue Jacket. Guys don't wait for camp to get them into shape, they come already in shape - really good shape. There's no unspoken rule, or fear, of hitting a veteran in a battle drill. There's no taking anything for granted. You're on time, you're ready to go, and you put in work on and off the ice.

All of that creates an atmosphere of professionalism and an attitude that is "business-like," as more than a few players have described it. But how does this ultimately affect the culture? How does it make players better?

That's the magic of how this training camp works.

"I think (head coach John Tortorella) upped a few things this year, and made camp that much harder," Calvert said. "It pushes you out of your comfort zone that much more. That's the best thing. We talk about raising the bar. It happens when you're questioning if you can finish those last two sets of the skate test, or if you can you get through that scrimmage.

"(Camp) puts you that far out of your comfort zone and everyone in this camp is pushed. It makes you better when you see that you can do it."

Calvert already knows this camp will help get the team right physically. He was one of many Jackets players who realized he wasn't tired like he had been at the end of practices or games. What he also knows, however, is that feeling like that means there's more to give. And that is how the cycle of improvement feeds itself. You find the next thing you have to work on. You find "another level," as Tortorella likes to say.

"Getting better as a team isn't about being in better shape, I think we got that down last year," Calvert said. "I think it's about another year of experience in the small areas…learning how to respond to a loss, learning how to respond to a win, learning your role. All those little things. That's the stuff. Those are things where we are going to get better. Ultimately, it will make us a better hockey team."

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