TAMPA BAY – James Wisniewski didn’t take long to show his true colors.
As the horde of media gathered around Wisniewski’s stall in the visitor’s dressing room at the St. Pete Times Forum, the newly acquired Habs blue-liner already had a message prepared for his new fans.
“Je m’appelle James Wisniewski et je suis très excité de jouer pour les Canadiens de Montréal,” smiled the 26-year-old in his best French before switching back to his native tongue. “Not bad, no?”
About to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, Wisniewski was waiting for word from his agent who was in contract re-negotiation talks with the Islanders when the phone rang.
“I was playing Call of Duty with a couple of my teammates when [Isles GM] Garth Snow called to tell me I’d been traded,” explained the Canton, MI native. “I was really surprised to be traded, especially at this time of the year, but I’m really excited to be coming to a team with a shot at winning the Cup.”
If the way the deal went down was fairly simple, getting the D-man to Florida to join his new teammates proved a little trickier for Wisniewski and his girlfriend.
“My arrival here was a bit of an adventure in itself,” he explained. “I was stuck in New York. I was originally supposed to get here at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, but they cancelled 1,600 planes. They re-routed me through Toronto, then through Montreal, then I took a flight to Orlando [that was also delayed 90 minutes] before finally arriving here last night.”
When Wisniewski finally did make his way into the Canadiens’ dressing room in Tampa, he had a familiar face waiting to welcome him with open arms.
“Travis [Moen] and I played together in Norfolk – the Blackhawks’ farm team – during the lockout,” said the Habs’ new No. 20. “It’s funny, he was traded to Anaheim and then I was traded to Anaheim. Then he was traded to the Sharks and I was traded to the Islanders. Now we’re reunited here again.”
While Wisniewski may have made a few enemies in Montreal a few days ago, scoring for the Islanders in the 4-1 Boxing Day win over the Habs, it didn’t take long for him to convert his new teammates into fans. On the Canadiens’ first opportunity with the man advantage on Thursday night, the power play specialist wired a canon from the point that Tampa netminder Cedrick Desjardins will be feeling for a while.
“I felt surprisingly comfortable out there, especially after the long day of traveling yesterday and having only one skate with the team,” admitted Wisniewski, who played nearly 22 minutes in his first game as a Hab. “The puck had a bit of ice on it – a half-inch to the right and the score would’ve been 2-0 and that’s a whole new game.”
He may not have gotten to celebrate his first win in his new jersey just yet, but Wisniewski has every intention of making up for that on Friday night.
“The good thing about hockey is we have another opportunity ahead of us and we have the chance to finish the year with a bang.”Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.SEE ALSOHabs fall in Tampa Habs prospects shine at WJC Habs acquire James Wisniewski from the Islanders Preliminary results for NHL All-Star Fan voting - After 6 weeks