If there was ever any doubt as to whether or not Jesse Puljujarvi is seen as a completely different player and person in the eyes of his teammates, there should be no question about it now. After reading the story detailed by Sportsnet’s Mark Spector about Puljujarvi’s quest back from Seattle — and just in time for the holidays — it’s crystal clear his teammates see him as an important part of their core.
Oh how things have changed, and for the better.
The Puljujarvi Seattle Story
As many fans now know, there was a danger Puljujarvi was going to be stuck in Seattle, at least for a little while. The Oilers tried to avoid running into a situation where the team might discover any players had tested positive for COVID while on the road, but despite leaving late for Seattle to play the Kraken and leaving a few late positive tests back in Edmonton, Puljujarvi was unlucky enough to test positive while across the border.
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The winger couldn’t fly back with the team on their charter and it looked like he might have to quarantine alone over the Christmas break. That is unless the Oilers could find a way to get him back into Edmonton in time for the holidays and after learning the remaining games versus U.S. opponents was going to be postponed.
The organization went into scramble mode and turned over every rock until they found a solution that would work.
The Oilers Leave No Man Behind
Spector talked about Bob Nicholson’s efforts to ensure Puljujarvi wasn’t left behind, at least not for more than a day or two. The Oilers Chairman explained, “Players were calling me and saying, ‘You’ve got to do something, Bob. Anything.'” His response was only that, “‘We’re trying…’”
Eventually, Nicholson was able to secure the services of a private flight run by Graham Williamson, the C.E.O. of LIFESUPPORT Air Medical Services, Inc.. With just two pilots and Puljujarvi onboard — both pilots had to agree to fly with a COVID positive passenger in a tight, enclosed space — the Oilers were able to get Puljujarvi on that flight. $20,000 later and with confirmation that a non-Canadian resident could get back across the border, Puljujarvi was home.
Nicholson was always going to try to get his player back over the border but things weren’t always a given. In the end, it all worked out and he said, “What I like is the passion that our players had, saying, ‘We’ve gotta get him home. We’ve gotta get him home.’ That speaks volumes to how much he means to his teammates.”
Puljujarvi Is Part Of This Core
It wasn’t that long ago Puljujarvi was seen by fans as an entitled prospect who was likely to be playing somewhere else if he ever came back to the NHL. It wasn’t just fans who doubted the forward’s future with the club as a few of his teammates seemed to feel the same way. When he went back to play international hockey in Finland and a trade was requested by his agent, there were players on that Oilers (some of whom are still on today’s roster) that were ready to wash their hands of him.
Today, he’s one of the most beloved players to the fans and it’s clear his teammates care for him. Granted, any good teammate wouldn’t be keen to see another player stuck alone over the holidays, but the sense that his current teammates were urging the Oilers to figure it out and do whatever they could demonstrates their sense of concern for his well being and happiness.
Puljujarvi is important to this team. He’s important to the players on this team. He’s important to the city.
The obvious core of this Oilers’ team is Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Darnell Nurse. Some are making room for guys like Evan Bouchard and Zach Hyman. This quest to get Puljujarvi back from Seattle only goes to show fans should throw The Bison King into the mix.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”