It's not that Bruins right wing Nathan Horton
didn't like the weather, the golfing and the all-round beauty of South Florida -- and he makes it clear he is grateful for the six seasons he had with the Florida Panthers
-- but Horton can't wait to be playing in the frigid Northeast this season. He has no problem bundling up for the walk to TD Garden on game days because the reward is playing in front of packed houses and passionate fans who know the game of hockey.
"I grew up in Canada, so I know what that's like, but I'm excited," the native of Welland, Ont., said during the team's informal workouts prior to training camp. "It's going to be different, but it's going to be a lot of fun. There's pressure to perform and I think that's what any player wants."
"It's been tough. Seven years is a long time. Where you want to play the most, I think, is the playoffs. When you never get there, you don't taste it. It's tough, but I guess it's a new page, a new chapter, and I couldn't be more excited and thrilled to be here."
-- Nathan Horton
What any player really wants is a chance to play for the Stanley Cup, and to do that he must play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something Horton has yet to experience. Drafted third in the talent-rich 2003 Entry Draft, expectations were high that the former Oshawa Generals star could help the Panthers get over the hump and make the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-2000 season. But with an ever-changing roster and three coaches, Horton was unable to help the Panthers return to the playoffs.
Despite scoring at least 20 goals in five of his six seasons with the Panthers -- including a 31-goal campaign in 2006-07 and back-to-back 62-point seasons in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Horton wasn't satisfied. That's why he has done his best to put the frustration behind him and wipe the slate clean in Boston.
"It's been tough," Horton said. "Seven years is a long time. Where you want to play the most, I think, is the playoffs. When you never get there, you don't taste it. It's tough, but I guess it's a new page, a new chapter, and I couldn't be more excited and thrilled to be here."
One need only to look at Horton's age and statistics to realize that if all goes well, trading defenseman Dennis Wideman
and the 15th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft will be worth it.
After last season's devastating loss to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, when the Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead and 3-0 lead in Game 7 on home ice, expectations are high for a team that brought back its core and added Horton as well as the second pick of the 2010 draft, Tyler Seguin
. Horton is embracing the challenge to deliver and help the Bruins redeem themselves and take the next step.
"You look around and I think there's obviously going to be high expectations on everyone," Horton said. "It's a great team, a great bunch of guys and a lot of good hockey players. I think it's great to have high expectations and I think it's going to be a fun year."
That mission will start in Prague Oct. 9-10, when the Bruins play two games against the Coyotes as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Games. Horton is excited for those games, but says he'll be even more excited if he is playing in front of the TD Garden fans in late April -- and hopefully beyond.
"I can't wait to get over there (Prague) and get the season going, but I'm not going to lie -- my goal is to help this team to the playoffs and battle for the Stanley Cup," Horton said. "That's why you play the game and I can't wait for that."