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Spending time in Winnipeg fuels Gregoire's passion to become a Jet

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IF there were days when Jason Gregoire's NHL dream took some shots -- and battling through injury can mess with a guy's mind -- then the Winnipeg-born winger has had them rekindled in a big, big way.

Playing in his first pro season last season, the 23-year-old former New York Islanders' draft pick suited up for just 44 games with the St. John's IceCaps, scoring six goals and adding eight assists.

But in hindsight, what the former Winnipeg Blues' product discovered is his passion to one day wear Jets colours has never been deeper. And the reminders are constant once he returned home for the off-season.

"All summer it's not tough to wake up in the morning and go to the gym or skate at night," Gregoire said Tuesday after Day 2 of the Winnipeg Jets Development Camp.

"I get to live and breathe it just seeing the Jets hats and T-shirts all around town. It's a constant reminder of what I'm working towards. I want to be the guy where they have a 'Gregoire' shirt on walking around the mall, you name it.

"It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. It's certainly a dream I think I can accomplish and want to."

Jets management has long liked Gregoire's hockey smarts, and asked him to get stronger to become more durable but also to bring a little more sandpaper to his game.

And what Gregoire discovered on The Rock is just how much commitment is necessary to be a pro.

"That's one thing I realized: there's lots of good hockey players out there. It's a dogfight just to stay in the AHL and even moreso to make it to the big club here," he said. "It's the grind, it's staying in shape, it's staying healthy, it's eating, sleeping right and just keeping your body prepared to play today, tomorrow."

KHL BOUND: The lack of a deal with the Jets must have spoken volumes for Tim Stapleton. An unrestricted free agent since July 1 but not drawing interest in the NHL, the diminutive forward will not be back with the Jets for another season, but is now taking his talents across the pond to the KHL. The official website of HC Dinamo-Minsk is reporting the signing of Stapleton, the La Grange, Ill., product, who turned 30 this week. Stapleton played 63 games for the Jets last year, posting career highs in goals (11) and points (27). Three of his goals were game winners.

But with the Jets adding Olli Jokinen and Alexei Ponikarovsky in free agency and hoping to have some of its' talent in St. John's pushing for work, Stapleton's spot on the team's fourth line became vulnerable.

JETS D-CAMP SCHEDULE: Wednesday, MTS Iceplex: Group B: 9:30-10:45 a.m; Group A: 11-12:15 am.

All sessions are open to the public and are free.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 11, 2012 C3

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 10:58 AM CDT: Corrects reference to Stapleton.

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