Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Meech looks on bright side

Jet takes his bad luck with grin and a shrug

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A lesser man -- somebody without Derek Meech's resolve and the-sun-will-rise-tomorrow approach to life -- might have spent the day waving a fist at the heavens.

Today, Sept. 21, has long been circled on Meech's calendar. With last year's injury-riddled nightmare a blip in the rear-view mirror, he was to step onto the ice for the first day of Winnipeg Jets' training camp for a fresh new season full of possibilities.

Refreshed, rejuvenated and, most importantly, healthy, Meech had hoped to reopen some eyes among Jets' brass during camp.

And with Zach Bogosian on the shelf likely until after Christmas with a hand injury, the chances of Meech sticking with the big club had improved dramatically.

Then came the cursed lockout.

"It seems like the opportunities have been shuffled away from me in the past... especially last year with a double-knee injury," Meech said this week after a workout at the MTS Iceplex. "There could have been some opportunity this year and there still might be, but you can't think of what could be. You just have to go out and play and have yourself as best prepared as possible."

The 28-year-old Winnipeg product has had months to be as best prepared as possible after 2011-12's disaster. Meech played in just two games with the Jets after suffering a knee injury and, when he returned to St. John's after recovering, blew the joint out again.

It wasn't until the spring when he was healthy again and the IceCaps certainly benefitted from his presence in the playoffs, when he scored four goals and picked up nine points in 15 games.

So, yeah, Sept. 21 was supposed to be a pretty big deal.

Instead, he'll be heading back to St. John's next week for IceCaps' camp and taking the same silver-lining approach.

"I guess you could say I might be getting a bit of an upper hand if the (NHL) starts because I'll be playing and staying in shape," Meech said with a shrug.

"You've always got to look at the positives and that's what I'm focussed on now. I hope to start the season off well and do what I can down there to help out.

"A lockout can be scary for certain guys. There's always a group of players in a bracket who have a tougher time finding jobs overseas and who are not eligible to play in the American Hockey League.

"To have an opportunity to go down and play with the likes of (Jason) Jaffray and (Jason) King and all these guys and have a great coaching staff in Mark Morrison and Keith McCambridge is going to be a pretty great thing.

"You never know why things happen the way they do," Meech added. "There's got to be a reason for it. That's why you've got to stick on the hard work so that when that chance does arise, you take it."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2012 C5

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