Dawson Barteaux had to use an unfamiliar entrance Thursday, coming into the Centrium not through the Rebels player’s door, but on the Winnipeg ICE bus, through the zamboni entrance.
The former Rebels defenceman, who played 195 WHL games in a Rebels uniform, found his way to an unusual spot– the visitors dressing room.
“It’s a little odd, but I’m in a good spot and I’m happy with where I’m at and how our team looks, I’m really excited,” said Barteaux, now a member of the ICE.
The 19-year-old blueliner was traded away from Red Deer at the Jan. 10 WHL trade deadline for a plethora of draft picks. He joined the ICE one night later and played against his former team.
Now, just three weeks after that night, Barteaux, the former Rebels captain, makes his return to the arena where he grew into one of the top defencemen in the WHL.
“I’m happy that I get to come back here this quick. This place holds a special place in my heart after all the years here and how I developed,” said Barteaux, who has eight points in seven games with the ICE.
“The coaching staff, I have a lot of good memories. I’m happy to be back, but when it comes to Friday night, it’s business, so I’m looking forward to it.”
He met with some of his former teammates after a short morning skate for the ICE Thursday, then planned on meeting with his old billets as well.
He said it will be a bit surreal suiting up against the Rebels on the visitors’ bench Friday, but once the puck is on the ice, it will be business as usual.
“Lots of those guys I’ve been playing with since I was 16, we’ll be forever friends, so I’m looking forward to seeing them,” added Barteaux, who is an alternate captain with the ICE.
On the other side, Cam Hausinger said it will be the same feeling in the Rebels locker room ahead of Friday’s matchup.
“It’s weird,” said Hausinger.
“Every guy in (our) locker room loves Barts to death. It’s hard to go out there and play a hard game on him. You’ve battled with that guy for countless years… it’s tough but you gotta learn to play within the 60 and play hard against him. After the game, give him a hug and say no hard feelings.”
While it will be a meaningful game for friends turned foes, it is also an important one for the ICE in the standings. They currently lead the East Division with 59 points, but both the Prince Albert Raiders and Brandon Wheat Kings are in hot pursuit. Barteaux and the ICE have won five of seven games since he joined the fold.
“The big thing is the skill level we have on this team. James (Patrick) implements a hard work ethic and that with skill is really dangerous,” Barteaux said.
“I mean with the skill we have up front and some of the skill on the backend too, we can really be a threat offensively. That’s our big strength.”
Hausinger noted that the ICE are so dangerous because of their talent up front and the many ways they can beat you.
“We gotta stay out of the box. You have to play really disciplined. They’re a really good team on the power play and they have good speed. They make good skill plays and they move the puck well. We have to shut down their top players,” he said.
“We have to take it to their defenceman, Dawson is back there now, really helping out their D-core. Krebs up front, two Europeans up front that are really skilled. We have to take it to them, play a physical game against them.”
The Rebels will host the ICE on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Centrium.