Harrison should fit in just fine

Maurice already a big influence on new D-man finding his game


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Leaving behind his wife and four daughters for work less than a week before Christmas is hardly an ideal situation, but Jay Harrison was clearly defaulting to the bright side of the story before Friday’s NHL game at the MTS Centre.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/12/2014 (3088 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Leaving behind his wife and four daughters for work less than a week before Christmas is hardly an ideal situation, but Jay Harrison was clearly defaulting to the bright side of the story before Friday’s NHL game at the MTS Centre.

The new Winnipeg Jets defenceman was in the lineup against the Boston Bruins one day after being acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a sixth-round draft pick.

“I was told in junior by a coach that being traded is a very difficult thing, but there’s always the great fact that somebody wants you,” Harrison, 32, said Friday. “That is what I’m really focused on coming here and having the opportunity to contribute.

John Woods / THE CANADIAN PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Evander Kane (9), Grant Clitsome (24), Jay Harrison (23), Matt Halischuk (15) and Adam Lowry (17) celebrate Kane's goal on the Boston Bruins during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Friday.

“That’s what any player wants at this level, an opportunity to show and do the things that got you here, the things you think you are capable of. So I’m very thankful for that opportunity tonight.”

Harrison won’t be a one-man cavalry, riding in to rescue the Jets from their injury woes on defence. The top four of their depth chart at the position has been wiped out until some time in January, when one or both of Zach Bogosian or Toby Enstrom may return. Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart are out until at least February.

Harrison is, by all accounts, an honest player with a fit-in kind of personality who should be able to match quickly to the reasonably successful style the Jets have employed in fashioning a 16-10-6 record through the first 32 games.

Manitoba Moose fans will remember — and some not all that fondly — Harrison as a hard-to-play-against member of the rival St. John’s Maple Leafs and Toronto Marlies in the AHL days.

“Big guy, good skater, very competitive on the puck,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice, who, having coached Harrison in both Toronto and Carolina previously, put in a strong endorsement for him when Jets brass was discussing their options earlier this week.

Only Jets captain Andrew Ladd has been a previous teammate of Harrison’s, and that for only a few weeks at the 2013 world championship in Sweden.

“I can’t say I know him really, but I did spend three weeks with him and he seemed like a really nice guy, someone that will fit in well here,” Ladd said. “Obviously he’s very familiar with Paul, so having that recognition between those two will be good.

“He’ll just be a really solid NHLer for us.”

That fit, says to Ladd, is a key element of Harrison’s addition.

“That’s huge,” the captain said. “Obviously we have a pretty good group and things are going well and we need to find certain personalities to fit in well. For me, he’ll go along well with our group. He’s a pretty genuine guy and pretty easy to get along with. He’ll fit in well.”

Harrison, who got off on a good foot with an assist on Evander Kane’s first-period goal on Friday, said he’s not here as a passenger when asked if he’s the “quiet type.”

“I’m not (quiet),” he said. “I’m the opposite of (quiet). I like to have a good time, keep it loose, joke around with the guys but at the same time make your work fun. And having fun never comes before the work. That’s pretty much it. It’s a simple recipe. Hopefully I fit in well with this group.”

After only 20 games with the NHL’s Maple Leafs, Harrison signed with the Hurricanes in 2009 as a free agent and it was there he built most of his 338-game big-league career.

“I hope to provide some stability on the back end,” Harrison said Friday. “Puck-moving, physical defenceman as well as some leadership, to get us over the hump to get some of those regular guys back, and to continue to move forward and maintain the success that’s been part of this team so far.”

It’s clear Harrison will be playing for a coach, Maurice, who has helped him previously.

“He’s had a huge effect on my career, coming in at a very up-and-down time in my career when I was in Toronto playing for the Toronto Marlies,” the defenceman said. “He simply helped me reveal to myself what I was capable of. From there it kind of acted as a springboard.”

Harrison said he doesn’t expect to be treated like a favourite.

“I think it eases a bit of the first-impression jitters that come, that I know the expectations from Paul as a coach,” he said. “It doesn’t certainly make it any easier because he’s a demanding coach. He plays a demanding system but I’m up for that challenge. The production still needs to happen.”

Originally a 2001 third-round pick of the Leafs, Harrison was born in Oshawa, Ont., grew up in nearby Whitby and now lives in nearby Bowmanville in the off-season.

He made sure to say on Friday he sees value in playing again in a Canadian market even if it means a few short-term days away from his wife, Jodean and daughters, Presley, 6, Willa, 4, Stevie, 2 and Gemma, 1.

“It (the trade) was a bit startling at first,” he said. “As it sank in, the opportunity to come to this hockey club and to a hockey market and back to play in Canada, it got real exciting real quick.”

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