RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward put the word out to all players in a mass email during the summer that they would start informal on-ice sessions at Raleigh Center Ice (RCI) last Monday.
They were there, but only a handful of others had joined them by Friday.
John-Michael Liles, Zach Boychuk, Daniel Altshuller, Josh Wesley, and Jacob Slavin skated with the team’s most decorated veterans during that time.
Even former Hurricanes Tim Gleason, Jiri Tlusty, and Bobby Sanguinetti were there, but not many Carolina regulars were – at least, not just yet.
In recent years, many more had arrived during the first week of open ice held in August, which seemed a little intriguing to wonder why, but it didn’t concern Ward much.
“I threw out a mass email to every player in our organization that we were going to be having ice available here if you wanna’ come early,” Ward said.
“Certain players do different things. Their situations may be a little bit different. They may have better ice and more players where they are at home than here, but at the same time it is nice to get down here, get the players all together and build that chemistry before the first day of camp.”
For Staal, his return to Raleigh came after keeping up his regular workout regimen back in his hometown of Thunder Bay with brothers Jordan, Marc, and Jared.
Obviously, the Staals hold a little pull there, and can get a hold of the manager of the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre when they need to put their summer on-ice workouts together.
“We can text him and show up whenever we want to skate, so it’s real nice,” Staal said.
“We get treated real well.”
They kept it simple before eventually returning to their respective hockey homes and organizations to increase the intensity and pace of workouts ahead of training camp.
“You don’t need a ton of guys – just more about feelin’ pucks, shootin’ pucks, gettin’ out there and doin’ things like that to make sure that you’re stayin’ on the ice and involved that way,” the captain added.
Friday’s session at RCI included Ward and Altshuller in the net while Staal, Liles, Boychuk, and Slavin wore Hurricanes jerseys, and current free agents Gleason and Tlusty donned NHLPA colors, joined by Sanguinetti and Peter Harrold, who signed with Buffalo and St. Louis respectively, this summer.
It was Staal and Ward leading by committee on the ice, echoing to one another what drills would come next.
Everyone followed from there.
Yes, both are in the final year of their current contracts, a much talked-about issue, but both are “letting that take care of itself”, as Staal put it.
For now, they are each doing what would be expected of the two-longest standing members of a team that they helped win a Stanley Cup with.
They’re on the ice together, and have put the call out for the others on their team to follow suit.
“I think a lot more guys are going to be coming in starting this weekend,” Ward said.
“I’ve been here since the beginning of August. I came back a little bit earlier than in years past, planning it around a friend’s wedding. We’ve been going here for a little while now and you’re seein’ the group a little bit bigger, and it becomes a lot easier when a lot more guys are rollin’ in.”
Notes: Wesley departed on Friday for Michigan to begin skating with his junior team, the Flint Firebirds, before eventually heading to Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament to play with the Hurricanes’ prospect squad beginning Sept. 11.