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Strangely normal

For first time in years, Jets facing a 'normal' season

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The first summer was a whirlwind, driven by the gales of a new organization and the media and the move, and the second was soured by a looming lockout.

So now, it's almost strange to say the Winnipeg Jets off-season was, finally, a normal one. Zach Bogosian is fresh from the United States Olympic team orientation camp, but he found plenty of time to go fishing too; his defensive colleague Mark Stuart's big off-season acquisition was a beard. He grew it around the time his sister got married in July, around when he was fly-fishing in the hills of Montana, and it sorta stuck around.

"Yeah, me and him are thinking about going Duck Dynasty this year," the equally hirsute Bogosian said with a grin, after skating Friday at MTS Iceplex.

Even this normal summer has grown long now, though, and the legs and wrists are starting to itch for the game, and so a small crew of Jets trickled back into Winnipeg this week to skate and shake off any August rust. The rest are likely to land in the coming days, as training camp opens in September.

"It feels good to be back with the guys," Bogosian said, and he's gotta know the fact he's putting steel to ice sent a shiver through the city's legion of hockey faithful. "There's a lot of hype around town, you kind of feel that buzz that it's that time of year again."

Bogosian and Stuart were out there Friday, and jocular forward Chris Thorburn, too. Towering, lightning-fast forward prospect Ivan Telegin raced on the rink beside them, and newcomer Devin Setoguchi was rifling pucks at the net. Guy can shoot.

"Yeah, he's fun to watch," Stuart said, noting he'd skated with the former Wild forward in Minnesota in off-seasons past. "Just his shot, you can tell he's a goal-scorer. I'm excited to have his offence."

Another factor in the relaxed normalcy of this scene: 2013 marked the first healthy off-season Bogosian has had in his entire pro career, he said. He ended last season with a concussion, meted out by New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo; if the two talked about it this week at the U.S. Olympic camp, he wasn't saying.

"I'll leave that between us," said Bogosian with a laugh.

Point is: he felt good, all summer. Some bumps and bruises, but nothing major, and so nagging injuries weren't nibbling at his mind. Instead, he trained like wild, signed his big seven-year, $36-million contract, and then watched the rest of the Jets' summer reel out.

"Now we have a full year where you kinda know what to expect," he said. "We know where we're at. We know who we signed, and how we're gonna play. It's just our job now to go out and accomplish our goal."

Meanwhile, halfway across Canada, another face familiar to the Winnipeg Jets organization hung up his skates -- at least, his playing ones.

On Friday, the St. John's IceCaps announced that IceCaps forward and former Manitoba Moose Jason King will retire from the game to take an assistant coaching gig with the Jets farm club instead.

Although King is only 31, injuries conspired over the off-season to make him realize his playing days were done. As assistant coach, the Corner Brook-raised King gets to stay at home in Newfoundland. He was originally drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in 2001, and played 59 career NHL games between Vancouver and Anaheim.

He was a favourite with the Manitoba Moose between 2002 and 2006, and played in Europe for a stint before hopping on board his home-province IceCaps in their inaugural season. He notched 22 goals and 41 points for the IceCaps in that first year, but only played nine games last season before a practice collision with a teammate left him with a concussion that shut him down for the season and sped his transition to coaching.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 C1

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