CBJ Q-and-A: Nathan Horton
SEP 02, 2013 10:15a ET
While the Columbus Blue Jackets may have targeted highly sought after free agents in the past, two months ago they made a play for arguably one of the most coveted free agents on the market this summer.
Although Nathan Horton has had a few serious concussions and would require shoulder surgery in the offseason (rehab time of 4-6 months), the Blue Jackets front office had their sights set on the 28-year-old power forward. And, they got their wish, signing Horton to a seven-year, $37.1 million deal July 5th.
He brings a Stanley Cup ring, playoff experience and a scoring touch to a Blue Jackets club that has use for that skill set.
CBJ general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said about Horton, “He’s scored in the games that matter most. He had great playoff performances with the ( Boston) Bruins when they won the Cup (in 2011). He’s still a young guy at 28 years old, just coming into his prime as a hockey player. He brings experience of what it takes to win the Cup and what it takes to win in this league.”
What would induce a 28-year-old hockey player with a wife and two sons to sign with the Blue Jackets? What did he see in Columbus that he didn’t think he would find anywhere else? We sat down recently with Horton to see how he’s acclimating to life in the “hidden gem” of the NHL.
Horton underwent surgery on his shoulder July 17 in Boston and is expected to make a full recovery after completion of the rehabilitation process.
“I think I’m on track,” said Horton. “I’m doing what I’m told to do. I’ve got the right people in charge to take care of me. You know, it’s a long process. It’s definitely not something that I want to do, but I know that I have to do it to get myself better.”
When Horton signed with Columbus, many pundits took potshots, obliquely, at the city and franchise. What does Horton think about the city and fans that he’s met in his short time with the franchise?
“How could you not love it?” he said with exuberance. “Like I said before, it’s a great place for my family and for me. To have a house now, and to be in this organization, with so many great people running it. You can see, with the players that we have on this team, it’s just a matter of time before, year after year, we’re in the playoffs and we’re fighting for that Stanley Cup.
“When we come in from the summer (offseason), we know that we have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. That’s what all of the players want. It’s going to be a great place. I can feel it, already, and it’s only the summertime.”
While the franchise did their best to woo Horton before he signed with the Blue Jackets, including getting him and his family some quality time at the Columbus Zoo, what was the one thing that “sold” him on Columbus?
“There are so many things,” Horton said, “I can’t pick one thing. The living, the hockey team, the organization, just everything about it. It’s all top-notch.”
“This is it”, he continues, “It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be even more fun when we’re winning (the Stanley Cup). I think the guys know that we can do that. The guys that I’ve talked to, how excited the guys are to get going again. I mean, I’m not going to be playing for a bit, but I feel it. I’m going to be working hard to get back.”
Horton is coming into the Columbus organization as a 10-year veteran of playing in the NHL. He brings with him a good deal of experience and knowledge of what it takes to succeed in the league. Does he look at himself as a mentor to some of the younger players that are coming into the NHL now?
“I’ve been in a situation where the team didn’t make the playoffs for a while, in Florida”, he said. “Then, going to Boston and experiencing the playoffs and the Stanley Cup, I think you learn a lot as a player. When you get there, there’s nothing else you want to do, except get back to the playoffs and play for that Stanley Cup. Once you get a taste of it, that’s all you want. For the guys that haven’t been there, we can show them how hard it is to get there.”
“There’s a lot of work and dedication you have to show to get there and to actually win a Stanley Cup. People talk about it, but it’s totally different when you’re involved in it.”
Since donning the Union Blue, Horton has been a part of the “brick-by-brick” era that President of Hockey Operations John Davidson ushered in upon him taking the helm of the Blue Jackets. What does this “brick-by-brick” philosophy mean to Horton, as he comes into a club that’s on the rise?
“That’s the exciting part, for me, coming in here”, he said. “He hasn’t been here that long, but, he knows how to run a hockey team. He’s been around a long time. He’s played, now he’s a manager and he’s got great guys around him, like Jarmo.”
“That’s why it’s so exciting. There are so many people here that know how to build a hockey team and how to make a team win. We’re on the right path, for sure.”
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