Sporting a distinct sunglasses tan and his classic grin, Dustin Byfuglien signed autographs and posed for pictures outside the big tent after weighing in on day three of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship (FFCBC).
Though the former Winnipeg Jet had fished the tournament once before, some of the fans he met this past weekend had yet to be born when he competed in 2011.
On both occasions, Byfuglien fished with Josh Meyers, a childhood friend who lives in International Falls. During their first visit to FFCBC, they finished 24th in the third division.
“I didn’t really know what I was even doing,” said Byfuglien.
This year, they tied for 79th of 90. Since they pre-fished Rainy Lake, Buff said the lake went down, and conditions changed.
“Fishing was a little tough,” he said. “But it was fun, I enjoy Rainy.”
After dealing with two days of wind, day three brought lots of rain.
“It hurt us,” said Byfuglien. “It was definitely not in our favour.”
He said he fishes about a dozen tournaments each year, but FFCBC is one he committed to returning to.
“I’ll definitely come back and do this,” he said. “I like this place.”
Certain that many wonder the same thing, the Times asked if he ever misses the rink.
“I can’t say I do,” he said. “I got two boys that are coming up, so I’ll be at the rink plenty in a little bit.”
Byfuglien began his NHL career in Chicago after being drafted by the Blackhawks in 2003. He eventually helped them hoist the Stanley Cup in 2010 as Buff became the first black American-born player to win Lord Stanley.
That offseason, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers. He played a year there before the franchise moved to Winnipeg. Byfuglien spent the remaining eight seasons of his hockey career there with the Jets.
Through 869 NHL games, Byfuglien notched 525 points with 177 goals and 348 assists. Though he usually played on the back end, Big Buff is one of a small list of players who have started at both defensive and forward positions.
Byfuglien now lives in Minneapolis with wife, Emily and their three kids aged 10, six, and four.