June 29, 2011
If Winnipeg can hardly believe that it got its NHL Jets back after 15 years, imagine how Brad Shaw feels.
The former Kootenay Ice trainer is preparing to move back to his home province, having gladly accepted the position of assistant athletic therapist for the Jets.
Just last summer he was getting ready to leave Cranbrook to join the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League.
"It's definitely pretty surreal, especially to be going home to work in The Show. It's something you can't even really imagine," he said. "Like I said to my wife (Cori), a year ago it wasn't even an option. Now all of a sudden they have a team and a week later you've got a job there."
Before he joined the Ice in 2007, Shaw was the visiting room attendant for the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. True North Sports and Entertainment owns the Moose and brought the Atlanta Thrashers to town. They have retained lots of the Moose staff, which means Shaw has plenty of familiar faces at his new job, including a former University of Manitoba classmate, and another close chum.
"We go back probably eight to 10 years, so that's the exciting part too. Knowing the staff, you know what to expect, what they're expecting of you and you're buddies going in."
Shaw was notified early in the process that he would be considered for a job with the new Winnipeg club, even when the Phoenix Coyotes were potentially going to be the franchise to move back north.
"When they did secure the team, there was a very short interview process with two or three candidates they thought they would be comfortable with, and I came out with it."
Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth said he couldn't be happier for Shaw, whom he had hired sight unseen four summers ago.
"It doesn't surprise me that Brad Shaw has reached the NHL this quickly. He's great at what he does and, more importantly, he's a better person," said Chynoweth.
Then 24, Shaw had come on the recommendation of Craig Heisinger, himself once a Jets' equipment manager. 'Zinger' moved into the front office with the Moose and is now assistant GM and vice president of the Jets.
"I remember Ed (Chynoweth) saying, 'We don't need anything more. If Zinger said he's good, he's good.' Everything Zinger said was true. (Shaw) was excellent at what he did," said Chynoweth.
Last week, Shaw took part in a league-wide meeting of trainers and medical staffers in Phoenix. He said it was interesting to be part of discussions that will become the gold standard in all of hockey.
He and his new/old workmates were in Arizona watching TV as the club made its first pick at the entry draft last Friday. That's when the team quietly confirmed that it would revive the 'Winnipeg Jets' moniker.
"When they announced 'Jets' we kind of looked at each other and that's what we said: 'Is anyone else's spine tingling right now?' Growing up it was the Jets, and to think that we're going to work for the team we grew up following and cheering for, it's pretty cool."
Shaw grew up in Cardale, about three hours drive from Winnipeg. His father would try to take Shaw and his brother to one or two Jets games a year.
"That's where I got to see Wayne Gretzky play for the first time, and it was definitely the team that you followed the most. They always disappointed year after year, but hopefully that will change now."
Shaw said his year in Grand Rapids set him up well for the leap to the highest echelon of professional hockey. However, changes to Michigan law were making it difficult for Canadian health professionals to work there.
"It's almost like they were shutting the door on Canadians coming in, so this job couldn't have come at a better time," he said.
It also helps wipe away any resentment he might have felt in seeing his former major junior club win a league championship the year after he left.
"I told (Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch) at the end of the season that he could have at least waited a year or two before that happened, to lessen the blow," Shaw laughed.
"Watching them go through the playoffs, I was definitely happy and excited for them. Knobber? Jeff and all the guys did a phenomenal job.
"In the back of your mind you wish you could be there with them, but obviously it was on to bigger and better things for me. At the end of the day, everything has worked out in my favour so I'm not complaining."
Shaw and his wife will be traveling to Winnipeg this weekend to begin house searching, and will move from Cranbrook sometime late next month.
"I'll be able to sneak in a few more rounds of golf in the Kootenays, that's for sure," he said.
Even once that move has been completed, Shaw isn't expecting it to feel quite real.
"That first night (after accepting the job), laying in bed, realizing what was happening - it definitely took two or three days to set in, and I don't think it will completely set in until that opening night (against the Montreal Canadiens) when the building is packed and everyone's doing the 'Go Jets Go' chant. It will be unbelievable."
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