Grant Clitsome did a double take as he walked into the Winnipeg Jets locker room.
“I’m not used to this,” Clitsome said as a hoard of media waited by his stall.
Clitsome arrived in Winnipeg Wednesday after being picked up off waivers Monday from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jets made the move just before trading defenceman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks. Clitsome, also a defenceman, has four goals and 10 assists in 51 games with the Blue Jackets this season.
Oduya, 30, was set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and he is being paid about $3.5-million (U.S.) this season. Clitsome, 26, still has a year left on his contract that pays roughly $1.25-million annually.
Clitsome, who grew up in an Ottawa suburb, said he and his family were happy about the move back to Canada.
“I opened a Twitter account two days ago, ever since I got picked up on waivers, and it has just blown up,” he said.
As for his time in Columbus, Clitsome said it has been a difficult, tumultuous season for the Blue Jackets.
“It was a tough season in general for the whole team and I think that really affected individual players all around,” he said. “I think if you look up and down our whole roster in Columbus guys underachieved and it was a tough, disappointing season.”
The coaching change, the controversy over a possible trade of forward Rick Nash and the unloading of Jeff Carter left many players feeling almost hopeless, he added.
“It was difficult. It gets to a point where you’ve got to kind of just bear down and play your game. You are playing for yourself. You are playing for your teammates regardless of the standings and the results. You’ve just got to do your job.”
He added that despite all the turmoil, the Blue Jackets’ locker room remained upbeat. The mood in the locker room “has been good,” he said. “Off the ice, guys are trying to stay positive.”
And he still thinks hockey can work in Columbus.
“There is definitely a difference between a Canadian hockey market like this and Columbus. There’s no question. But the fans in Columbus are really good.”
As for coming to Winnipeg, Clitsome was asked what he knew about the city before arriving.
“It’s cold,” he said. “A lot of the initial texts [he received]were pack a winter coat and make sure you’ve got your gloves and tuque.”