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FEATURE: Petrovic preparing for hometown hotbed

Going from the Florida Panthers to his hometown Edmonton Oilers, defenceman Alex Petrovic will adapt to the pressurized Canadian hockey market

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - On the one side, Alex Petrovic will be close to home. Close to the family that raised him and the friends he grew up with. Close to the community rink he skated at and close to the schools he studied at.

On the other side, he'll be playing professional hockey in Edmonton for the Oilers. In a market that bleeds orange and blue. A market under the microscope and a hometown hotbed, where pressure simmers until it boils. 

It's a new experience for the 26-year-old north sider. It's the first time he's ever been traded in his career, going from the Florida Panthers organization to the Oilers, as the defender prepares for his Edmonton debut on New Year's Eve against the Winnipeg Jets.

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Alex Petrovic 12.31.18

It's an endeavour Petrovic will go into without much knowledge of but isn't necessarily afraid of, either, and has simple solutions for silencing the noise.

"I'm not big into social media so I don't think that will affect me," Petrovic, acquired by the Oilers from the Florida Panthers on Sunday in exchange for Chris Wideman and a conditional 2019 third-round pick, said. 

"I just think I got to show up and just focus on hockey. The outcomes will come. Work hard every day and focus on the stuff you can control."

It's not like the pressure is completely foreign. Even as a minor hockey player in Edmonton - or Canada, for that matter - there's always a sense of coercion to perform. Playing high-level minor hockey for the Edmonton-based Maple Leaf Athletic Club and then the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels could have proved as much. 

"You can't control what other people think," Petrovic, who has 49 points in 254 career NHL games, added. "So, you just build around the positives."

The right-shooting defender won't have to look far if he ever needs advice on the matter. None other than Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, who is also from Edmonton, can guide him with that.

"In this country, and in this city particularly, people take second jobs to buy tickets," Hitchcock said on Monday. "That's how much the game means to them. They do extra things so they can pay for hockey tickets to come to games… They're invested in every game you play, they're invested in every shift you play. 

"It's a big part of their life."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Ken Hitchcock 12.31.18

The bench boss believes that Petrovic - and recently acquired defenceman Brandon Manning - are fortunate to have knowledge of the setting, given they are both from western Canada.

"When you come here, you understand how much this team and how much the game means to people," Hitchcock continued. "I told both guys that they're lucky they came from the west and understand what it's like but it's even bigger than they thought."

For the 6-foot-4, 216-pound rearguard, it's all about what he can manage. That's playing his brand of hockey - no matter the setting.

"My main role is to play good defence and make it hard for the other teams' top players," Petrovic, who will wear No. 15 with the Orange & Blue, said. "It's going to be a hard night every night you come in here, and I think that's the culture we want. 

"I know down in Florida I played physical consistently, and I'm just going to bring that here."

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