MONTREAL - Almost 12 months ago to the day, Andrew Shaw's life changed significantly - on many levels.
While he was enjoying a relaxing evening in his hometown of Belleville, ON on June 24, 2016, he got a call that shook up both his personal and professional life.
Shaw found out he'd been traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Montreal Canadiens, and realized he'd be leaving a city and a team that he came to know very well. He also realized he was thrilled to be joining his new club; so happy, in fact, that he didn't waste any time and signed a six-year contract only three days after being acquired by the Habs.
Even though he hadn't come to Quebec all that often in the past, and knew practically no one on his new team, Shaw was accepted immediately and became a full-on member of the group in Montreal very quickly.
"I only knew Phillip Danault before coming here. I met Patch [Max Pacioretty], [Shea] Weber and Nate [Nathan Beaulieu] last summer as well. There were a lot of new guys coming in that were in the same situation as me, which I think made it easier for a lot of us," recalled Shaw, who played his first five NHL seasons in the Windy City. "I felt like a part of the team and a part of the family pretty early on.
"I like the team because we didn't really have a 'clique-y' team, everyone kind of hung out together and made sure everyone felt included. I think that's a huge thing when you're a part of the team and there's a bunch of new guys coming in. They made us feel very welcome."
Still, his first few months in a Habs uniform didn't go exactly as planned. Shaw himself admits that it wasn't one of his better campaigns. On top of having to reacquaint himself with new linemates on a fairly regular basis as he was cycled from line to line, the 25-year-old also had to confront an obstacle he never had to deal with before in his career this year - a long-term injury.
Ever since joining the League in 2012-13, Shaw had never missed more than four games in one season. Known for being a ball of energy and for sacrificing his body for the good of his team, his 14-game absence starting in mid-December was unbearable for him. Especially since the Habs were not spared much in the way of injuries this season.
Video: MTL@TOR: Shaw shows off hands to flip home OT winner
"That's one of the toughest things about being a hockey player: dealing with injuries, not being out with guys every day, going out there and competing to the best of your abilities due to injuries," lamented Shaw, who finished the season with 12 goals and 29 points in 68 games. "But we came together. Even though we had a lot of guys injured and out, we still found ways to win close games, and it builds character as well. Obviously I wasn't satisfied with my personal stats, but I've put that aside to do what I could to help the team win."
A few weeks after the Habs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Rangers, the early exit still stung for Shaw. Especially since he had to sit out the elimination game on April 22 due to a concussion.
The concussion ended up delaying the start of Shaw's summer training, which he has only just begun. That means that even though it's the off-season, Shaw has already set himself up on a healthy diet to help ensure his body is ready for the intense workouts he'll be doing to be in top shape come training camp time.
"I'm going to make sure that I come back in the best health that I possibly can be, and the best shape as well. Everyone is going to go home in the summer and do the same thing and get prepared for next year," he posited. "I think we had a successful year but we fell short in the playoffs. We're going to use that experience going into next year as well. It's going to be a big year for us."
The 2017-18 season will be all the more special for Shaw, as he will be starting the campaign as a newlywed. Having just come back from almost a month of traveling around Europe - with a stop in London just a few days before the various attacks in England - he will exchange vows with his longtime girlfriend, Chaunette, in August. In a way, their European adventure was their honeymoon, taken earlier to avoid distraction in the lead-up to September.
"We're getting married in August and I'm more focused on getting in the best possible shape that I can," concluded Shaw, "so we did that big trip in May before the summer started, and we could relax and focus on the season ahead."