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Dustin Byfuglien says he's fit and ready to play for the Winnipeg Jets

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

WINNIPEG - He didn't talk much about possible charges in his home state of Minnesota or his weight, but Winnipeg Jets defencemen Dustin Byfuglien is happy to be starting a new NHL season in a new city.

"I can't really talk about it right now, lawyer says not to, so, I mean later on maybe we can, but as of right now that's it," he said Friday when asked about his legal issues.

Byfuglien jumped to the head of the line of players in the spotlight, thanks to his little run-in with the law on the waters of Lake Minnetonka. His lawyer has said the husky blueliner passed a breathalyzer test but then unwisely refused a blood test, which could get him charged.

Then there's the other little matter of his weight, which was reported as being about 20 pounds more than the 265 listed in the team's stats page.

"My weight's always going to be the same. I have no problem with my weight. They're (the Jets) obviously happy with my weight, I just got done (his physical)," he said when pressed about the issue as training camp opened.

The Jets play their first home exhibition game Tuesday against Columbus, a split-squad home and away affair.

Byfuglien wouldn't give a number and invited reporters to make up their own, since he said they seem to do that anyway. As for hockey, though, he's looking forward to going back to work after the summer layoff which saw the team relocated.

"I love my job. It's something I enjoy doing. I get to bang people around and score. It's always fun being on the ice with guys you enjoy being with."

He's one of the marquee players on the relocated Atlanta Thrashers squad and scored 20 goals last season.

Team captain Andrew Ladd predicts Jets fans will have plenty to like about their new team. Not that he has to worry much, with a season-ticket sellout for the next three years and game tickets so scarce you have to enter your name in a draw to buy one.

"We were kind of . . . under the radar a lot last year," he said.

"If you watched us the first half of the year, we were probably one of one of the most exciting teams in hockey to watch. We got up and down the ice real fast. We've got D that can move the puck and get up and play that are a big part of the offence."

They fell flat in the second half last season and failed to make the playoffs.

"Personally, I expect us to take that next step. A lot of that is just consistency and bringing it on a nightly basis."

Meanwhile, Jets owner Mark Chipman, despite insisting he's non-political, also got drawn into a little Manitoba election furor Friday when Premier Greg Selinger showed up at a news conference to talk about a new joint program for inner-city kids.

The Manitoba Moose, Chipman's American Hockey League franchise before he secured the Jets, was always active in the community and he announced the charitable foundation it ran has been renamed after the new team. The partnership with the province will mirror Chicago's After School Matters program that will give kids a hands-on experience with sports-facility management and marketing.

Selinger was quickly accused of breaking Manitoba's election rules by making the announcement during the campaign for the Oct. 4 provincial election.


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