ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - After stints with everyone from the Vancouver Canucks to the Hamburg Freezers, Jason King is a lot closer to home
The 30-year-old winger from Corner Brook is back in his home province playing for the fledgling St. John's IceCaps, the American Hockey League affiliate for the Winnipeg Jets.
“I'm more than excited to be back here,” King said Tuesday as the IceCaps opened camp. “There's nobody more proud to be a Newfoundlander than I am. I think that guys are going to be really proud to play for this jersey.”
King, a seventh-round pick of the Canucks in 2001, has already been overwhelmed by the support from the people of St. John's for their hockey club.
“From the day I signed, the excitement has been building and building, and now that the day is here that we're finally getting going, it's hard to describe it,” King said.
Alex Wall, a 20-year-old native of St. John's who played junior for the St. John's Fog Devils, also gets a good vibe.
“I think everyone in the city is pretty excited about it, as you can tell from the ticket sales,” Wall said. “There is going to be a good team here and it is going to be a lot of fun.”
Still, he acknowledged some butterflies.
“As the days come closer to the camp you get a bit nervous,” Wall said. “I'm trying to earn a spot on this team, so I'm pretty excited to get started and show them what I can do.”
The IceCaps were the Manitoba Moose last season, displaced by the arrival of the former Atlanta Thrashers in the Manitoba capital. They will be playing out of the Mile One Centre, which seats around 6,500 and served as home of the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs from 2001 to 2005.
Winnipeg stocked the IceCaps' training camp by re-assigning 20 players to the team Tuesday.
IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge believes the relocation will be a fresh start for the organization and the players.
“It is a fresh roster to some degree, but it's also a fresh start for the players,” he said. “They are not going into a situation where they have been stereotyped as player A or player B, it is a chance for me to evaluate them with a clean slate.”
McCambridge, who was an assistant coach with the Manitoba Moose for two seasons before the relocation, explained how the IceCaps will be a combination of new players — and teams.
“Coming into a new organization, you're looking at pretty much two organizations coming together,” McCambridge said. “You have the Manitoba Moose guys coming in here, you have the guys from the Chicago Wolves last year, and these free agent guys in here at camp. So you have three different aspects you're looking to put together.”
McCambridge believes St. John's will be a great city to play in, unless you're the opponent.
“I had the opportunity and benefit, back in my playing days, of seeing what this city had,” he said. “It's a great place to be for the home team and a tough place for visiting teams to come play.”
The IceCaps begin their season on the road against the Providence Bruins on Oct. 7, and the Manchester Monarchs on Oct. 8.