Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scheifele savours Game 1

One highlight was being sat on by huge Habs blue-liner Hal Gill

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There will come a day when Mark Scheifele takes the time to do the reminiscing thing about his first National Hockey League game.

Maybe it's next week, next month or perhaps it's not until years from now when he's bopping a grandkid on his knee.

 

And the highlights will be many, from being introduced to the rabid Winnipeg Jets' crowd before the game, to hopping over the boards for his first shift, to being sat on by Montreal Canadiens' defenceman Hal Gill...

Sat on by Hal Gill? Excuse me?

"He sat on me at one point," said the Jets' rookie centre after Tuesday's practice. "It kinda hurt."

No kidding -- when a 6-7, 250-pound man mountain tumbles onto anybody, it's apt to leave a mark.

"I mean, Hal Gill falls on you... I remember watching him a couple years ago being one of the clutch players in the playoffs," added Scheifele. "I'm like, 'How is this happening?' I'm playing against him, against P.K. Subban, Brian Gionta, the players you look up to and it's like, 'These guys are unreal.'

"But you can't be star struck. A week ago I might have been thinking, 'What? I'm going to playing against these guys?' Once you get out there you see how skilled they are, but you have to do what you can do.

"Before the game Buff (Dustin Byfuglien) told me, "Scheiffs, just go out there and have fun.' That's what I tried to do."

'Tried' being the operative word here. Truthfully, the whole experience of his first NHL game seems a bit unbelievable for Scheifele, who just five months ago was considered a late first-round draft pick destined to be in the opening-day lineup of the OHL's Barrie Colts.

It's one thing to play in a preseason game against the likes of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, it's another to be in the lineup on opening night against the storied Montreal Canadiens.

"Looking back at it, it was a pretty surreal moment," Scheifele said. "To think back and say I played in an NHL game, and throughout the years look back and see how many people you played with and how many people you played against... It just kind of gives you the chills to think you made it there and were able to play in an NHL game.

"It would have been better if we got the win, obviously, but it was definitely a fun moment."

Asked if he had a 'Holy (bleep), I'm in the NHL' moment, Scheifele grinned:

"Yeah, it was probably when they announced all our names before the game. There was the smoke, the big lights... it was pretty unreal. I was like big-eyed with my mouth open. It was a fun moment and something I'll always remember, for sure."

But now there's this: Scheifele has eight games remaining to make a positive impression on Jets' management. After he plays nine games, the organization will have to decide whether to send him back to junior or keep him with the big club. That would take him to the end of this month. Still, as rapidly as that deadline is approaching, Scheifele has taken a smaller-picture outlook.

"It's the next day, the next shift, the next game for me. That's my main focus," he said. "I don't think about the nine games. I have to play well every day and not think even that far in the future. It's about every practice for me. I'll just keep on working hard and trying to make an impression so I can stick."

 

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2011 C3

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