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Byfuglien excited to play in new NHL home

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Fresh from a little R & R at his cabin, Dustin Byfuglien -- star defenceman with Winnipeg's new NHL team and a diehard fisherman -- can't wait to drop his line into Manitoba's renowned waters.

"I just spent a week and a half in Roseau fishing," Byfuglien told the Free Press during a brief stop in Minneapolis on Tuesday. "I've been up there a couple of times, but it's been a couple of years. I've got to catch one of those green walleyes."

Arguably the biggest name on a roster stocked with young talent, Byfuglien -- like so many of his Atlanta Thrashers teammates who will soon be moving north -- is excited about a change of scenery.

"It should be good," he said. "It's definitely going to be a change for everyone who has been in Atlanta since they've been in the league and it we're going to have to get used to everyone knowing what we're doing and not doing, that's for sure. There's good and bad to that.

"I definitely enjoyed Atlanta a lot. There are fans there and there were good crowds. It was fun to play there and I enjoyed it, the city and everything. But just the way the organization was run, it wasn't up to standards that's for sure."

That will change in Winnipeg, where True North Sports and Entertainment not only has a history of being one of the top franchises in the American Hockey League, but where the MTS Centre will be full every night.

"Any time you can go into your home barn and you know it's going to be packed it's like having an extra man and we definitely noticed that in Chicago," said Byfuglien, originally drafted by the Blackhawks before last year's trade to Atlanta.

"When we first started there it wasn't full at all, there were 7,000 people, but in my last three years there it was jam packed. There was some games where it was hard to get yourself up and ready to go right from the get-go. But as soon as the anthem went you were cranked right up and ready to play. Every guy should eat that up and then we'll do what we can to give those fans some good hockey to watch."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

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