WINNIPEG – Hockey season has officially arrived.
The Winnipeg Jets’ hopefuls, even a slimmer and trimmer looking Dustin Byfuglien were put through the paces with on-ice testing on the opening day of training camp. And for this maturing Jets’ roster it’s playoffs or bust this season.
“We have to make the playoffs this year.” Jets forward Mark Scheifele said.
“I think we have a team that has the capabilities to do big things this year. I think it’s got to be on everyone’s mind. We can’t be complacent. We can’t be satisfied with just being good every other game.”
The two biggest impact players they brought in to get them over the hump are defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and goalie Steve Mason. Mason joined the Jets after playing parts of the last five seasons in Philadelphia so the 29-year-old understands the pressure of being a number one goalie in this market.
“I think there’s lots of similarities.” Mason said. “I think pressure is a good thing. It wouldn’t be fun to come to the rink with no expectations.”
This is a rejuvenated Mason who not only lost his confidence but also lost his love of the game while playing with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mason had to lean on his family, often venting over the phone as he tried to get his game back.
“Go to some pretty dark places really.” said Mason. “I was young. I was used to having success as a goaltender in the Ontario Hockey League and then in my first year, and really struggling to find that confidence.”
Mason admitted he was depressed after a couple rough seasons in Columbus and he was close to giving it all up until he was traded.
“I was done.” Mason said. “Didn’t enjoy hockey anymore and it was at the point where it was more of a burden than a passion.”
“I was ready to hang up the pads and focus on other ventures in life but a trade happened and there’s a new lease on life.”
Mason and the rest of the Jets will have their first real skate on Saturday and then after just two days of practice the Jets will play their first exhibition game on Monday against the Minnesota Wild.
WATCH: Steve Mason Raw Interview