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This article was published 29/1/2016 (2136 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NASHVILLE — News? Dustin Byfuglien didn’t spill a whole lot of that Friday at the NHL all-star media day at Bridgestone Arena.
Personality? That came flowing out of the Winnipeg Jets defenceman like it rarely does.
For instance — Byfuglien was asked what he thought the difference would be between the NHL’s new regular-season-overtime format of five minutes versus the 20-minute three-on-three games between the divisions that will be Sunday’s all-star game tournament.
"A hidden bagger," he laughed out loud, clearly intimating a conditioning conspiracy by the NHL’s coaches.
Friday morning, he volunteered, along with Daniel Sedin and Roman Josi, to visit the opening of a recently renovated Nashville Inner City Ministry, a 30,000-square-foot space that will serve as an all-star game legacy Family Life Centre dedicated to help at-risk youth with educational and vocational programs.
"That was great," Byfuglien said. "I was really impressed with what they have done. They had nothing, an old warehouse, and just turned it into a great facility for kids to come in and start getting on the right path."
At his fourth all-star game, Byfuglien fielded numerous questions about his contract situation during a 25-minute back-and-forth with reporters.
His camp and the Jets have been talking about an extension, but as of today, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"There’s talks going back and forth," he said. "Nothing big and nothing’s moving quickly, that’s for sure. There’s been a few talks, I guess, and it sits there right now.
"It’s not easy but it’s just something you have to put aside. You can’t let it bother you. When you do, it can really be a factor in how you’re playing. It hasn’t been easy, but so far I’ve been able to let it go and let my agent do the rest of it."
Both he and Jets captain Andrew Ladd are in the same contract situation, being pending UFAs.
"We had a talk about what this is going to do, and for the most part it hasn’t crept up in the room," Byfuglien said. "It’s been something that’s been pretty nice and every once in a while the boys ask and stuff, but they know it’s business, and we’ll talk when we’re ready to talk.
"I don’t think they’re worried about it. Everyone’s got phones and they look at them. Everyone just wants to know like everybody else, along with myself."
Situated in the cavernous interview area with John Scott on the podium to his left and Brent Burns to his right, Byfuglien was comfortable and conversant, even when pressed on contract matters.
"I’ve actually been pretty good with it," he said. "It’s something I’ve just told my agent, ‘Don’t talk to me about it. When things get close, let me know and we’ll have a quick chat about it.’ He’s got a job to do. I’ve got a job to do. And all I can do is worry about what’s going on in my life then and there and just go to work every day.
"I haven’t let it affect me too much. I think my wife’s gotten more emotional about it than I have."
Has he had that call with his agent, Ben Hankinson, yet?
"No, not really," he said. "I just go to work every day, and if I’m going to go somewhere else, the Internet will tell me probably as fast as they will."
After that burst of laughter, he continued: "I don’t want to hear about it. For me to have a good season, I just have to come to work and make sure my teammates and everyone are on the same page and we’re trying to win games and you do your job and I’ll do mine."
And more about Ladd: "We talk, obviously. We’re pretty close friends. We talk a lot. It comes up and it’s stressful but I’m an easy-going guy so I don’t really talk hockey with him very often. It’ just usually talking about other things, our kids, life outside of hockey."
Then came the blunt question: Do you want to be in Winnipeg?
"I just want to put on a jersey, to be honest with you," he said. "I don’t mind Winnipeg at all. It’s close to home for me. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to be able to play by home. There are so many good things that I like about Winnipeg. I can go do my outdoor stuff I like to do and I have no problem being up there."
That opened a new line of questioning, including about his ice-fishing trip Wednesday north of the city on the Red River.
"It was great," Byfuglien said. "The weather was kind of crappy at the beginning but it cleared up throughout the day. We caught a bunch of fish, no big ones, but it was just nice to get out and relax and just fish.
"Any day I get out, I’m happy. It keeps me good for another week or so. Hopefully when I get back I can get another trip out there quick."
Byfuglien said he’s usually able to get away fishing six to a dozen times during the season.
That was news to some reporters, who quizzed him further on that.
"This year it’s been kind of slow just because we had a new baby, but usually every day we have a day off, I sneak out to the lake or out to the woods," he said. "My wife lets me; she knows I enjoy that. It helps me not focus so much on hockey and gives my brain a rest so I can relax and go out there and enjoy the peace and quiet."
Is that a deal-breaker if he winds up being traded?
"Most places have a lake so at least I can pull my boat down there and go fishing either way," he laughed. "It’s not a big factor in everything. It’ll all be there when I retire anyway. It just helps to calm things down. Even get some of your teammates out there. They don’t realize how nice it is out there. Once you get out there, you get them settled down, they go, ‘God, this is relaxing and nice and there’s no one out there to bother us.’
"It’s just you and your little hole and you just play video games."
Byfuglien was asked who was his Jets teammate who complained the most about the ice-fishing trip.
"Probably Anthony Peluso," he grinned. "His first trip, he wasn’t well-dressed and he didn’t really know what he was getting himself into. He came back and he said it to a couple of people, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever go out there again.’ It was a cold and windy day, and he didn’t have the proper boots and stuff. And the heater shut off mid-afternoon so by evening it was a little chilly in there. When you’re dressed, it’s not too bad because you have something stopping the wind."
"He’s probably the one who complained the most."
What’s his ice-fishing drink of choice?
"Water," the nearby Jets PR person interjected.
"Half-cold, whatever we’ve got," Byfuglien said with a grin. "I’m not too picky."
Byfuglien will be competing in the fastest skater, hardest shot and shootout events for the Western Conference in tonight’s skills competition.
Sunday, he will skate as one of three defencemen for the favoured Central Division team in the three-on-three all-star tournament.
"It’s obviously going to be a lot of skating and a fairly decent pace," he said. "I think it’s going to get pretty competitive actually, because there’s a lot on the line. A lot of nice things. I mean, each division wants to be the best. It’s looking like it’s going to be a pretty good bagger for the day."
As incentive, the NHL has put up US$1 million for the winners to divide.
"I definitely think it’s going to help drive the guys a little bit more, make us work a little bit harder and want to put on a good showing," Byfuglien said. "The skills are going to come out; watch these boys play with that puck pretty good.
"It’s more something to play for. It doesn’t matter. We don’t need it, really but it’s something we can play for and have fun with it."
He isn’t yet totally sold on three-on-three for league games, not wavering from his critical stance from early in the season.
"I don’t know if you really warm up to it," he said. "For me, it’s just a tough way to decide the win. That’s not my (preference). Let’s just keep it five-on-five, make it a hockey game.
"Play an extra five minutes and see what happens. I wouldn’t be mad about if they had to do ties. I just come to work and go do what I’m told."