REGINA — Mason Appleton’s Heritage Classic is over before it could even begin. And now the young Winnipeg Jets forward is going to miss at least a month of action after suffering a freak injury while warming up with teammates prior to Friday’s outdoor practice at Mosaic Stadium.
“He broke a bone in his foot trying to intercept a football. Stepped in front of (Kyle) Connor and he’ll be out for a while,” head coach Paul Maurice revealed following the hour-long skate.
Appleton, 23, played the first nine games of the year for the Jets but was held without a point. He was a healthy scratch for the past two, but was likely coming back into the lineup for tonight’s marquee clash with the Calgary Flames.
A large group of Jets were tossing around the pigskin Friday afternoon about an hour before their on-ice session got underway. And that’s when it all went wrong for Appleton.
“When you think about the time that a man like that would have put in trying to make this team to try to grab a spot. The amount of commitment that he would have put in. His fitness numbers are outstanding. To get here, to get the opportunity, and it’s one of those things,” Maurice said.
“They play soccer before the games, they play basketball, they do all kinds of stuff. They’re having fun out there. And it’s tough for him. We feel for him. In a week’s time, he’s going to get verbally abused, horribly for what happened and how it happened. But right now, you just feel for the guy.”
Winnipeg now has just 12 healthy forwards on the roster, with veteran centre Mark Letestu currently on injured reserve with an upper-body ailment. Expect at least one skater to be recalled from the Manitoba Moose this week to take Appleton’s place.
“It’s going to be a month before you can ask about him again,” Maurice said.
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From New York to Anaheim to San Diego to Winnipeg to Regina, Luca Sbisa has had one doozy of a week.
The 29-year-old defenceman, who was born in Italy and has 504 career NHL games under his belt, took his first laps with his new Winnipeg Jets teammates on Friday.
“A bit unusual, with my first skate being outdoors. Nice to finally be here, it’s been a bit of a wild, crazy 48 hours. A lot of flying, lots of Uber rides, not much sleep,” Sbisa said.
To summarize: Sbisa was on a professional tryout with the New York Islanders, then signed to a one-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, who had to pass him through waivers and planned to send him to their AHL team in San Diego for a few games of conditioning. But along came Winnipeg, with all kinds of holes on the blue line, to grab him off the wire on Wednesday.
Turns out Sbisa’s camp and the Jets had been in talks as far back as last summer but didn’t get a deal done — until now.
“It’s an opportunity. It’s up to me to make the most of it. I think I have a lot of hockey left. I think my body, after not playing many games last year, is finally back to 100 per cent,” said Sbisa, who is 6-3 and 204 pounds.
Indeed, injuries limited him to just nine games with the Islanders last season and 30 with the Vegas Golden Knights the year before. Where he fits in with Winnipeg remains to be seen. The Jets currently have eight healthy defenceman on the roster, and Nathan Beaulieu is getting closer to making his regular-season debut after suffering an upper-body injury during the last pre-season game. He’s not expected to play tonight, but could debut on the upcoming road trip next week through Anaheim, San Jose and Vegas.
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The Jets and Flames are leaving something behind in Saskatchewan.
Both clubs have partnered up for a new $300,000 “Hockey Is For Everyone” scholarship, which will be available to undergraduate students who play hockey at the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan. Jets co-owner and governor Mark Chipman, Flames president and CEO John Bean, and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman unveiled details during Friday’s Heritage Classic legacy luncheon.
The annual scholarship will be available to one male and one female hockey player at each school. According to the terms, recipients “will be those who strive to provide a positive and inclusive environment, while also showing leadership and good sportsmanship on and off the ice.”
Each scholarship recipient will receive a one-year grant to aid in covering post-secondary costs.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
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