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Atlanta Thrashers right wing Blake Wheeler (26) plays the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Keith Aulie (59) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman/AP Photo/David Goldman)
Atlanta Thrashers right wing Blake Wheeler (26) plays the puck against Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Keith Aulie (59) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman/AP Photo/David Goldman)

GLOBE ON HOCKEY

Wheeler looking ahead to 'awesome' Winnipeg debut Add to ...

Add top-line winger Blake Wheeler's voice to those soon-to-be-former Thrashers who are excited about the move to Winnipeg.

It's understandable for Wheeler, who grew up in Robbinsdale, Minn., about a seven-hour drive from the Manitoba capital.

"It is definitely exciting getting the opportunity to play in a hockey crazy place like Winnipeg. You can see the enthusiasm in the fans from the videos that have been put on the internet after the news broke," Wheeler told the Globe in an email.

The lanky 24-year-old, who was acquired from Boston in a mid-season trade, will become a restricted free agent on July 1, but he said "I don't feel this should have any impact on contract negotiations" and that he's excited at the opportunity.

Given Wheeler spent less than a full season in Atlanta his attachment to that city isn't as deep as that of many teammates, and he said that several other members of the team are saddened that the great NHL experiment has failed for a second time in the Georgia capital.

"Guys with families and homes in Atlanta are bummed because they have to completely uproot and move, but from a hockey perspective everyone is excited about the opportunity," he said, adding that he's looking forward to taking the ice in Winnipeg on opening night and it "should be awesome."

Follow on Twitter: @MrSeanGordon

 

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