'Best week of my life': Why new Oiler Nick Bjugstad loves Edmonton and its gigantic mall so much
Hockey, snow and big shopping malls are some of his favourite things so Nick Bjugstad was gushing Tuesday when talking about his new home in the Alberta capital.
He's been an Oiler less than three weeks but he's already scored three goals and visited one of his favourite places on earth: West Edmonton Mall (WEM).
"I wanted to reminisce. I stared at the rink, told my girls that I played on that rink when I was 10. They didn't care. They wanted to go to the waterpark," he told reporters with a laugh.
"We took them to the waterpark and I felt like a kid again."
Bjugstad was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 2.
That same day he told reporters how excited he was to be Alberta bound and brought up the trip to WEM when he was a kid calling it "the best week of my life."
After scoring his third goal in eight games Monday night during a 5-4 Edmonton victory against San Jose, he said the city, the team and the mall have all met his high expectations so far.
"I have some good friends from Edmonton. Very nice people, love their hockey. I'm from Minnesota so it's a similar climate, attitude, culture, as far as sports go," Bjugstad said.
"I think it's even more diehard than Minnesota, as far as hockey goes, I hate to admit. Hopefully Minnesotans don't hear that."
That Grade 3 trip to Edmonton was so Bjugstad could play in The Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament at WEM.
"I remember meeting, I think it was [former Oiler Mike] Comrie. Is it his dad that owns The Brick? He came in and that was the first NHL player I met. So it was, I keep harping on it, but it was the best week of my life. Happy to be here in Edmonton," Bjugstad said.
He never forgot the trip and the great time he had with his family and teammates.
"We didn't leave the hotel. I think we might have seen the outside for a few minutes that week. Parents were probably losing their minds for a bit, being in a hotel and mall for a week, but it was so fun as a kid," he recalled.
Bjugstad has also gone snow tubing with his family since arriving in Edmonton and, following stops in Florida and Arizona, said he was happy to be in a similar climate to his home state.
Oilers Head Coach Jay Woodcroft said Bjugstad "has really embraced the community of Sherwood Park," where he now lives.
"On the hockey side, he's found a way to contribute offensively. He plays a little bit on the powerplay, a little bit on the penalty kill, takes important faceoffs. He's scored some big goals for us. He's been a good addition," he told reporters.
Bjugstad, who was traded along with prospect Cam Dineen for defenceman Michael Kesselring and a third-round draft pick, is a free agent at the end of the season.
It's not yet clear if he'll stay in Edmonton or move onto his sixth NHL team, but he thanked his teammates and coaches for making him and fellow newcomer Mattias Ekholm feel welcome.
"As far as humans, there aren't many egos in the room. Everyone's pretty on the same page and enjoy being around everyone. So when you're walking into a room like that, it just makes it that much easier," Bjugstad said.
"I'm just trying to contribute in whatever way they want me to, penalty kill, five-on-five, whatever it is."
The Oilers (40-23-8) play Bjugstad's former team, the Coyotes (27-31-11), on Wednesday night at Rogers Place shortly after 8:30 p.m. MT.
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