By Ben Meyer-Abbott firstname.lastname@example.org
Dustin Byfuglien came back into the United Center for the first time since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals with a warning for his former teammates.
"I'm not afraid to run anybody and knock these guys around a little bit," he said.
Byfuglien, now an alternate captain with the Winnipeg Jets, got his first look during morning skate Thursday at the Stanley Cup championship banner he helped bring to the Hawks in 2010 with games like his two-goal, two-assist performance in Game 5 of that year's finals.
"Went up there and took a peek," Byfuglien said. "Still pretty white up there. Looks good."
Byfuglien said he got together with some of his former teammates and that it's been fun to see familiar faces in the building Thursday morning ahead of the Jets and Hawks game at 7:30 p.m.
"I miss the people but business had to move on," Byfuglien said.
Byfuglien, whose home town of Roseau, Minn. is just two hours from Winnipeg, and the Jets dropped their first game at home. But Byfuglien said it the atmosphere at MTS Centre was special.
"The crowds up there, everyone knows their players, everyone knows their hockey," Byfuglien said. "It was sold out, it's loud the whole time. It's something that's exciting. It's fun to be back in front of a full barn again."
Byfuglien said there was no comparison to the excitment level between Winnipeg and the franchise's home last year in Atlanta.
"It was an empty building most of the time. It wasn't the best environment to play in," Byfuglien said. "The city wasn't a bad city, I enjoyed it there, had a good time there. But any time you go in front of a full crowd, it's special, it helps your team and just makes hockey that much better."
Former Hawk and Jets captain Andrew Ladd also will be playing at the United Center for the first time since he was a member of the Hawks' 2010 championship team and also got his first look at the banner he helped bring to the building.
"It was my thing during the anthem to look at the banners," Ladd said. "It was kind of the goal we were striving to produce there and to see that up there was pretty cool."