RALEIGH, N.C. – Forward Chad LaRose stepped onto the ice at PNC Arena as part of the Carolina Hurricanes training camp roster of 36 players who remained on Saturday.
LaRose’s appearance came following Carolina’s morning announcement that nine players had been assigned to the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, while he was afforded a professional tryout (PTO) with the team.
His return followed a one-year absence from playing professionally, and after skating with the Hurricanes for eight seasons.
His career totals include 180 points (85g, 95a) and 286 penalty minutes in 508 career NHL games played – all with Carolina from 2005-06 through 2012-13.
Though he had signed an AHL contract with Charlotte in late July, and was ready to attend Checkers training camp this week, he got the call to skate with the Hurricanes.
He showed the same energy on the ice that he had when he was with the club previously, and skated through all the drills of an intense practice that head coach Bill Peters put the team through.
He didn’t look out of place.
Peters knows what he can expect to see of LaRose, and whether he’ll fit into the group he’s trying to assemble to start the season.
“Rosie’s a hard guy to play against,” the coach said of the five-foot-10-inch, 180-pounder.
“He’s not a big man, but competes very hard and brings lots of energy. He’s got a little bit of the rat to him and he drags guys into the battle. You can never have enough of those guys.”
LaRose was happy to be back in a team setting and skating with an NHL team again.
“Feels great man, feels great,” he said.
“It feels great to have some other human interaction out there. Aside from getting skated every day, it felt good and fun to be honest with you.”
On the heels of finishing a less-than-stellar lockout-shortened season (2012-2013) during which he posted only three points (2g, 1a) and missed 10 games of that 48-game schedule due to injury, LaRose said that he lost the passion to play the game.
He didn’t re-sign with the team – didn’t play at all – and went through his own process to figure it all out.
Soul searching, you can call it.
“I did what I had to do and what was best for me,” LaRose said.
“I didn’t really want to play hockey any more. I didn’t care much about it. It’s all in the past now, and I can only go forward.”
He realized that he missed playing the game, particularly while watching last Spring’s NHL playoffs.
“I used to never watch hockey when I played it – ever,” he continued.
“I never watched hockey, and then I found myself watching guys play in the playoffs and realizin’ what I had been through and what I’d done. Then every night I was calling my dad and sayin’, ‘you gonna’ be at home tonight? Let’s watch the game.’
“Then I’d go to my dad’s house and watch almost every playoff game, workin’ out in the mornings skatin’ – fell in love for it again.”
LaRose started skating to get in shape and hopefully get a break to return to playing professionally in the NHL.
He trained and skated on his own in Michigan since April – for about 12 straight weeks – and did so with power skating instructor Kim Muir, who’s worked with Carolina’s prospects and the Checkers in recent years.
However, he experienced a slight setback and suffered a quadriceps muscle injury during the summer.
“Tore it – eight centimeters,” LaRose said.
“Skating is when I tore it – quick-feet drill, sprinting.”
The injury could have prevented him from being ready for camp, but he put in the work to rehab it and was out skating with the Hurricanes to start the weekend, and showed that he was no worse for the tear, in figurative and literal terms.
Considering the Hurricanes’ recent injury situation with Jordan Staal missing three to four months, and others getting dinged up during the first week of training camp, LaRose has a big opportunity to enter back into the place he walked away from.
The NHL experience he possesses, including being part of a Stanley Cup-winning team back in 2006, definitely plays to his favor, but he knows he has to earn a spot just like everyone else does.
“I think I bring a lot to the table, to be honest with you,” LaRose said.
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be here, no matter where they place me. I’m gonna’ give it everything I’ve got – no matter where – whatever they ask me to do, I’ll be ready to do.”