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Capacity crowd greets Jackets’ official return

Mon., Jan. 14, 2013

Quite a few of the Columbus Blue Jackets worried about how the fans would react once the NHL lockout was officially over and the team returned to the ice.

A lot of people were angry. Some planned on turning their backs on the sport.

Based on their first practice, the players had nothing to worry about.

A capacity crowd, with fans standing two or three deep around the glass, clapped and cheered as the Blue Jackets held their first full team practice on Sunday at the public facility adjoining their home arena.

Everyone associated with the team was stunned by the reaction. The team handed out free T-shirts to the first 1,000 in attendance, but that didn’t explain the size of the crowd and its exuberance.

One of the club’s new players, Brandon Dubinsky, was making his first real public appearance as a Blue Jacket. He was acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers in July. He was almost speechless by the reception.

“It was really awesome. It was really cool,” the right wing said. “In New York we had closed practices. That was pretty special.

“All the boys were excited about it.”

Gomez sent home

The Montreal Canadiens sent underperforming center Scott Gomez home for the rest of the year before they opened training camp, ensuring their ability to buy out his contract next summer to remove his team-high $7.3 million salary cap hit from the books.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement signed Saturday, the cap is to plunge by about $10 million next season, but teams will be allowed two “amnesty” buyouts to help reach the cap. However, if a player is injured, he cannot be bought out.

The club decided that it was safest to not let Gomez play this season and avoid injury.

Around the league

Jarome Iginla, resting with a groin injury, didn’t take part in the Calgary Flames’ first practice. … The Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Kevin Westgarth from Los Angeles for forward Anthony Stewart and two draft picks. Carolina also sent goalie Brian Boucher to Philadelphia in a deal that included three minor leaguers. … The Vancouver Canucks have signed defenseman Cam Barker to a one-year deal. Barker was originally selected by the Chicago Blackhawks third overall in the 2004 draft. Barker missed most of last season with an ankle injury that required surgery.

Tags: hockey, NHL

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