Thursday, March 31, 2011

T.J. Oshie: "I was irresponsible"

Forward back on ice Thursday after two-game discipline
for unexcused missed practice; will play Friday

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- T.J. Oshie was back doing what he loves to do best: play hockey.

Oshie, who was disciplined two games for missing Monday's practice with an unexcused absence, was back on the ice Thursday morning with his teammates at the team's practice facility at St. Louis Mills after meeting earlier in the day with general manager Doug Armstrong, coach Davis Payne and the rest of the team.

Oshie, 24, will be back in the lineup when the Blues host the Calgary Flames Friday after Armstrong declared the incident over and done with.

"Davis and I did have a good meeting with T.J. today," Armstrong said. "He understands the severity of missing practice. He accepts his two-game absence from the team. We've moved on. T.J.'s ready to move on and we'll have him back in the lineup tomorrow.

"He understood the seriousness and he also understands the responsibility he has to his teammates and to the city and to the fans. He takes that responsibility serious. He understands what happened and he's ready to make amends to his teammates and we're ready to move forward with him."

Oshie met with his teammates to iron out the issue at hand and was relieved to do so.

"Just told them that I realized what I did and how unacceptable it was," Oshie said. "I just told them I'm ready to move forward, I'm ready to learn from this and to be more responsible on my own.

"I definitely want to earn their trust here the rest of the season and have a good summer, but we're a tight group of guys. We're a family. I think they're going to stick with me and hopefully help me grow out of this. ... It felt really good to get that off my chest. To not see them is the biggest thing. To not be with them when they go to war is tough."

Oshie, who was the last player off the ice for Thursday's optional skate, mingled with the dozens of fans in attendance and signed some autographs afterwards.

"There's some fans out there that stuck with me until the end," Oshie said. "To see their smiling faces was a huge relief for me.

"I love it here, I love playing in front of them. It's an honor to strap on the Blue Note and play in front of the St. Louis fans."

He met with the media and is remorseful about what took place leading up to his unexcused absence but wouldn't disclose any details.

"I was irresponsible. I made a mistake when I didn't show up for a morning practice," Oshie said. "I realize that it's my full responsibility to get here and to get here on time. From here on out, I'm trying to move forward.

"I've learned from what happened the last couple days. From here on, I just want to move forward. This is kind of an eye-opener for me. I know that this is unacceptable. I'm going to do everything I can to earn the trust back of the fans, who I love here in St. Louis, of management and mostly my teammates. They're the ones I go to battle with every night. I definitely never want to let them down again."

Oshie, who has 10 goals and 30 points in 44 games, was kept away from the team in order not to distract the rest of the squad from focusing on games with Minnesota and at Detroit.

"... Keeping him away from the team was not as a punishment but out of respect for the players playing the game," Armstrong said. "No player is more important than the team as total. If he had been with the team on Tuesday or Wednesday, he would have been the focal point. He's not the focal point of the organization. The game's the focal point. He wanted to make sure that stays true. Today's an off day. We addressed it today and we move forward."

Oshie took in Wednesday's game at teammate Barret Jackman's house. Jackman is on injured reserve with a broken index finger.

"I just wanted to talk to him, just make sure everything was good," Jackman said of Oshie. "He's a guy that really cares about his teammates. He's a great kid. I knew it was going to be tough on him, being away from the rink and worried about what the guys were thinking about him. He's a good friend of mine, he came over and we played with my son together. Just let him know that we still respect him as a teammate."

When Armstrong, Payne and the players were satisfied with the terms of Oshie's punishment and the satisfactory results from Thursday morning's meeting, he was allowed to return to his normal activities with the team.

"From a management perspective, we feel very comfortable that we've dealt with this," Armstrong said. "We feel comfortable with allowing him back on the ice and expect him to play very well.

"He's willing to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. He didn't know what they were going to be this morning when we met. But he understood that he had made a mistake. We all make mistakes in life. We're all ready to move on, he's ready to move on. We've all learned something from it and we're ready to move forward."

Payne agreed.

"We feel this is the right step for us, for T.J., for this team to get back on the ice and move forward," Payne said. "Missing two games like that and being away from our team, not being able to contribute is the message that we want to say to all our guys. It's team-first. It's actions that are team-based. There's nothing more important than that.

"We treat the situation very, very seriously. The consequences to his actions have been dealt with and we move forward from here."

This is the second incident in as many seasons the Blues have dealt with a younger player missing a practice. Center Patrik Berglund was disciplined one game last season after missing a practice because he overslept.

"Obviously it's going to be addressed again at the end of the year with the year-end meetings with management and I'm sure coaches and players as well," Jackman said. "Going into next year, our first meeting of the year is going to be about responsibility and professionalism. It's just something that you have to have trust in guys. Hopefully everybody in that room, we've learned from it and we're not having this conversation again. It's going to be more about how many wins we have and playoffs next year."

Oshie was not suspended nor fined for the incident, but he said he would not collect his game checks from either game, instead donating them to a pair of team-oriented charities.

"I want to let people know I did get paid for the two games that I missed," Oshie said. "I don't think that that's right. I will be giving Tuesday's pay to the Blues' 14 Fund and Wednesday's pay to Dream Factory (of St. Louis), two great charities."

Jackman said the team is ready to move on.

"Absolutely, he made a mistake and everybody makes a mistake ... his just happened to be a little bit bigger than some others," Jackman said. "He sat out the two games, which killed him. ... I knew it was eating him up inside. He's learned from his mistake, he's addressed the guys, he's apologized, he said that he wants to earn our trust back and we'll go forward with that."

The 14 Fund helps raise money for cancer care and awareness, health and wellness, education and youth hockey development. The Dream Factory is a non-profit volunteer organization that grants dreams to children with critical illnesses.

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