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Wisniewski Excited to Join Canes' Blue Line

by Michael Smith / Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Smith

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James Wisniewski and his wife, Nicole, were in California for a wedding on Saturday. Wisniewski was returning from a run and found his phone had been ringing off the hook.

“Being a hockey player, if you have a missed call from the same number like 19 times in a row, usually that’s a sign that something is happening,” he said.

Sure enough, something was happening. The 31-year-old defenseman had been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, his fifth team since 2010, and he couldn’t be more excited.

“What better team to come to than a team that is going to be hungry this year to redeem themselves, a team and an organization that was pushing to get me?” he said. “That means they want you there and are going to give you every opportunity to succeed. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”

The Anaheim Ducks acquired Wisniewski from the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he played for almost four seasons, at the trade deadline in March. At the time, he appeared to be the prized addition to the top team in the West heading into the playoffs; he would add a veteran presence to the Ducks’ blue line and, ranking third among NHL defensemen in power play goals, be a boon to a struggling man advantage.

He then did not play in any of Anaheim’s 16 postseason matches.

“It lit a fire in me to have a great season next year,” he said. “It was a humbling experience. I knew right from the get-go that this was going to be an important offseason. I was looking forward to working really hard to get in the best shape possible and come out with a bang with whoever I was going to be playing with.”

That team will be the Hurricanes, as his career somewhat comes full circle. Wisniewski is a product of Peter Karmanos Jr.’s Compuware youth hockey program in Detroit, and he played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers under current Hurricanes Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations Mike Vellucci.

Wisniewski also briefly played for Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters in Rockford of the American Hockey League while on a conditioning assignment.

“Wiz is a guy I’ve known for quite a while,” head coach Bill Peters said in a post-draft interview in Florida. “He’s a guy that can shoot the puck. He’s a right-handed shot, and we need that. We need some depth on the back-end, and he gives us that.”

“Bill is such a hands-on coach,” Wisniewski said. “He’s intense and very demanding. There’s nothing better.”

A veteran of 10 seasons and 551 games in the NHL, Wisniewski brings an experienced voice to the Hurricanes’ locker room. In terms of Peters’ on-ice system and the culture the organization is looking to build, the Canton, Mich., native is seen as an ideal fit.

“He’s a skilled defenseman who can give you offense on the power play. He’s got a great shot. I think he’s sneaky tough,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis after the draft in Florida. “He’s just a competitive, competitive guy. We’re trying to get that kind of culture in our organization, and we think he’ll fit in nicely in that regard.”

“I’ll block shots, and I’ll try to help the power play,” Wisniewski said. “In talking with Ron and Bill about the system they play, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s high-tempo, in-your-face kind of style. You have to be a skater to play, and you have to be in great shape.”

While Wisniewski spends his offseason in Columbus, he said he and his wife will make a quick trip to North Carolina in August to scout out their new home.

“I’m looking forward to getting down there. I’ve just heard nothing but great things about North Carolina,” he said. “I know it’s my wife’s favorite place in the whole United States, and coming from a California girl, that says a lot.”

And come October, it’s game on.

“I take pride in playing the game every day and have my competitiveness take over,” Wisniewski said. “I’m going to battle every game and every shift.”

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