It's the best time of year!
This weekend I caught up with Jets forward Evander Kane to get some of his thoughts on the move to Winnipeg and the season ahead.
RLD: Initial thoughts on the relocation to Winnipeg?
Evander Kane: I think it’s great. It’s a Canadian city and hockey is king in Canada. It’s great to be a part of a new franchise in Canada.
What are some of the differences you’ve seen in the hockey interest between Winnipeg and Atlanta?
There are some pros and cons. The off-ice life in Atlanta in terms of weather and vacation may be a little bit better, but with Winnipeg, there’s nothing like it for hockey. The fans are so passionate and the city is all about the Jets. That’s great for us as players to know that we have a city of passionate sports fans behind us every night.
Is it already at a point that wherever you go around the city, you get recognized?
Yeah, it was like that once I got to the airport. I’m expecting that to be the case throughout the whole season. It’s something that is definitely different from Atlanta, but it’s a positive thing.
Expectations for the team this season?
Our goal is to make the playoffs. That’s not going to change. I think we have the team to do it in here and if we continue to work hard and grow as a team throughout the season, there’s no excuse why we shouldn’t.
Difficult road schedule for you guys this year. Is that something you guys even think about?
You look at it both ways. You’re on the road for two weeks, but then you’re at home for two weeks, so it works itself out. Every team plays the same amount of games on the road, so we’re not looking to use that as an excuse.
First home game in Winnipeg coming up; what do you expect that to be like?
It’s going to be unbelievable. History is going to be made with the Jets returning and it’s going to be a pretty special night.
For you personally, do you see this as a breakout season? And what did you do this summer to strive towards that?
I’ve tried to fine tune some of my skills and continue to work on things I’m good at, as well, because if you can improve on the things you’re really good at, it could separate yourself from other players. Every year I look to prove and I think this year is definitely going to be a big, big year for me and I think I’m going to take a big step.
After breaking into the NHL right away, was there a ‘Welcome to the NHL’ moment for you?
Probably my first exhibition game in my first year, which was (in Nashville). I was playing against guys like Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan in my first ever NHL action. It was pretty cool and probably the only time I’ve ever been star-struck playing against opposing players. After that, it was just like playing hockey to me.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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