The Blue Jackets welcomed perhaps their biggest offseason acquisition to town Wednesday when forward Scott Hartnell, who joined the team in a trade for forward RJ Umberger, came to Columbus for a few days to get to know his new team and new city.
"I’ve had a smile ever since (making the decision) saying I was gonna be a Blue Jacket," Hartnell said.
The former Philadelphia Flyer waived a no-trade clause to join the Blue Jackets after hearing from Flyers general manager Ron Hextall that the team was headed in a different direction. Hartnell admits to spending a few tough days investigating his options but he figured out his decision easily.
"Watching the playoffs last year, the (Columbus) fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere," Hartnell said. "It shows how cool this city is and how they appreciate and love hockey."
Hartnell talked to former Flyer and Blue Jacket Jody Shelley, who Hartnell says called Columbus "great," and ultimately found the most convincing point to join Columbus in the team’s commitment to winning.
"You look at the age of these guys — it’s fair to say that they are going to have a good team for the next five to six years," Hartnell said. "That’s one thing I made clear before saying yes to the trade – I don’t want to rebuild for the next couple years and see where things go.
"(The Jackets front office) was on the same page as I was and I was really pleased to hear that."
Hartnell, who called Columbus beautiful, will spend the next few days getting to know his teammates — something he considers an important part of the team-building process.
"I want to get to know everyone, where they are from," Hartnell said. "That goes a long way when you’re a team and you actually care about each other."
Hartnell spent Wednesday meeting other players, learning more about them, including nicknames, and socializing off the ice but he also anticipates making an on-ice contribution with his standard of play.
"I’ve made a lot of money being that agitating guy – making it hard on goalies, finishing every check, working hard and working smart, that’s a big part of my game," Hartnell said. "I’m sure the fans of Blue Jackets will appreciate (my) hard work and I’m excited about that."
Hartnell is also excited about facing his former team. The Jackets and the Flyers face off for the first time Nov. 14 in Philadelphia. Already known for frustrating Pittsburgh fans, Hartnell hopes to add Flyers fans to the list of people who boo him.
"It means you’re doing good things if you’re hated," Hartnell said. "Hopefully I can be just as hated in Philly as I am in Pittsburgh."
Hartnell has spent the offseason getting into game shape. He believes that on-ice training is most important and he’ll focus on being as prepared as possible for the upcoming training camp.
"There’s no training like when you’re on the ice," Hartnell said. "Next month will be a big month for me to come in in the best shape that I can and have a great start. That’s what you want to do when you come to a new team."
With training camp and the NHL season around the corner, Hartnell is confident in the Jackets’ ability to contend in the Metro division and Eastern Conference.
"You add a healthy (Nathan) Horton and bring myself into the mix and it’s a great team on paper," Hartnell said. "We can match up anybody against the East.
"Hopefully, we can make that cannon go," Hartnell said. "I’m excited to be a part of the atmosphere at the arena."
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