T.J. Oshie emerged from the stick room dressed in his new Washington Capitals white jersey with his new number, 77, pasted onto the back of his helmet, trailed by a camera documenting his first skate with his new team. He stepped onto the bench at the practice facility, already feeling comfortable inside his new office, and leaned two fresh sticks against the glass. He eyed both then chose one, smiling as he turned toward the ice.
“Oh boy,” he said. “Let’s see how these new twigs work.”
Only a dozen or so fans were present for the occasion, a far smaller crowd than that which snaked around the building in mid-July, lining up for the forward’s autograph. Then, Oshie had just begun wrapping his head around the trade that sent him to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley and a third-round pick.
Come Wednesday morning, a new batch of tasks had presented itself to Oshie. It wasn’t quite as hectic as the torrential week in late July, when he and his future wife moved into their new Minnesota home, attended their wedding then spent two days in the hospital, because she endured the ceremony with kidney stones. But it came close.
As he scrimmaged with the Capitals, Oshie hadn’t yet moved into his new Clarendon home, the boxes still en route from Minnesota and St. Louis. Oshie, his wife and daughter hadn’t yet been in D.C. for 12 hours, having landed after midnight, but not before Oshie finished his fantasy football draft on the in-flight Wi-Fi. There were new faces to memorize, a new facility to learn, new twigs to test.
“I think it really hasn’t hit me yet,” Oshie said. “It’s still a whirlwind, almost…My wife and I are really, really excited. Once we got packed and left the house, we’ll move some stuff in today, everyone’s making me feel very comfortable.”
Oshie recalled how the Blues, who drafted him 24th overall a decade ago, handled new additions to the locker room, and felt something similar here in Washington. Not long after hitting the ice, Oshie found defenseman Nate Schmidt, a fellow offseason resident of Minnesota, and later shared a laugh with Andre Burakovsky, a potential linemate, after a nifty two-on-one goal.
“You’re nervous enough just having to meet new people,” Oshie said. “You don’t need any awkwardness. I sensed that from the guys here. I think every single guy has come up and said hi to me and introduced himself and the coaches and staff. Everything’s great.”
The trade paired two clubs looking to shake up their roster, and through the deal, Oshie found reason to view his move as a fresh start. The Blues hadn’t advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2011-12, and Oshie never registered more than two points in a single series.
“We had the same outcome every year in St. Louis and it was starting to feel repetitive,” he said. “You didn’t really know what else you could do or what you should improve on, and then once you go to a new team, you want to get out there, you want to impress everyone. I don’t know if you need to be pushed any harder, but if you do, getting traded really gives you that extra push to work harder in the summer and get there and make a difference.”
For now, his attention focused on the little things. Getting the keys to their new home. Waiting on the mattress to arrive. Seeing the sights, because even though he and his wife aren’t “really big explorers,” they promised each other they’d see everything once.
“It already feels like it’s going to be a great fit and feel like home,” he said.