IT'S clear that there is one thing that Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has missed while the league and its players were resolving their labour dispute.
And so when the shortened season begins next Saturday, Cheveldayoff has the same high expectations of support that he absolutely revelled in when the team debuted in Winnipeg in the fall of 2011.
"I wouldn't say we're taking anything for granted," Cheveldayoff said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. He was in New York for the NHL board of governors' meeting that ratified the new labour agreement. "We feel for the fans in a lot of cases. They want to see us play, bottom line. I'm happy we're moving in that direction now.
"They waited for a long time to get NHL hockey back here. They're passionate and patient throughout all those years. Unfortunately they had to have a three-month hiatus from where that passion level was.
"We're very excited about the prospects of getting the season started and looking forward to actually being able to see this year's (edition) of the Winnipeg Jets on the ice."
Cheveldayoff said Wednesday all the pieces weren't yet in place but that he anticipates a small training camp. It could be 25-27 players.
"We're looking at taking a look at some of the guys who have earned the opportunity to potentially be called up in short order if we did need some," he said. "We do have a couple of question marks on the injury side of things."
Among them: Alex Burmistrov has missed some time with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps; defenceman Zach Bogosian is probably out until sometime in February and possible roster players defenceman Derek Meech and forward Patrice Cormier have been hit with injuries. Meech is currently fighting a groin issue and Cormier is barely back after missing almost all of the first half of the AHL season because of a knee injury.
He said the organization is as anxious as the fans to get the season underway.
"We do not have a schedule yet," Cheveldayoff said. "We do not have a draft schedule yet. Once we get that in place, we can plan travel, practices and being to see how your season unfolds and make plans accordingly.
"I think the busy side of things is very welcome to everyone."
Asked about other specifics of the training camp, in particular if he's considering signing any free agents or bringing them in for tryouts, Cheveldayoff was vague.
"We'll look at all the different things," he said. "Phone calls are happening on a regular basis from agents and players looking.
"With a short camp... I have to weigh the benefits versus the costs of saddling my coach with a lot of players at training camp. I want to give him the best opportunity to have a group of players that are very, very close to the team that we are eventually going to have."
He also said he anticipates no issues regarding a return with the two Jets players who were playing in the KHL, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky.