New Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya has experienced quite the difference in hockey cultures in the past couple of years.
The Hawks obtained Oduya this week in a trade with the Winnipeg Jets. Oduya, 30, played most of the past two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers. So he went from a market that was losing its hockey team to one that was dying to regain one in Winnipeg.
“I see myself, in a way, pretty fortunate,” he said Wednesday. “I've seen pretty much as big a difference you can find in both the sizes of the cities and obviously and interest in hockey and people and culture. Coming here now, too, is an add-on part to that.”
Atlanta has lost two NHL teams while Winnipeg had been trying to regain a team since the old Jets left for Phoenix in 1996.
When the Thrashers went north to Manitoba, Winnipeg went nuts.
“Obviously, the excitement level was through the roof,” Oduya said. “I don't think I've ever seen anything like that. I don't think anybody has or will for a long time. I think I was very fortunate to be there for the months to see that. To be a part of that was fun, for sure.”
Now, he's in a place where hockey has been back on the map for the past several seasons.
“I heard they're pretty good here, too,” he said.
Oduya got off to a rough start Wednesday night, as he was on the ice for all three Toronto goals in the first period, 1 coming while the Hawks were short-handed.
Center Jonathan Toews missed his fifth straight games with an upper-body injury, likely the result of concussion symptoms. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson missed his third straight and 10th of the last 11, also with what's believed to be concussion symptoms.
Toews did not take part in Wednesday's morning skate, but Hjalmarsson did and pronounced himself better, but not 100 percent.
“I'm feeling pretty good,” he said. “It's good to be on the ice again and try to get the conditioning back.”
He did not have a timetable for a return.
“Still waiting to be feeling good with my body and just try to get my conditioning up,” he said. “I obviously want to get out there now. It's been very frustrating for me the last couple of weeks.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews has begun some off-ice conditioning work.
“I know that we've got him going day to day,” Quenneville said. “We'll he how he's progressing in two days. No change from yesterday. Hopefully, he can get better soon and we can get him back on the ice.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.