MONTREAL - Newcomer Adam Cracknell wasn't kidding on Thursday when he let the Twitterverse know that his French skills weren't necessarily up to par.
"I think I got like a 12 percent on an exam. I started in French immersion and I just couldn't pick it up," said Cracknell, who was acquired in a trade with New York Rangers. "Not many people speak French where I'm from in Prince Albert, SK. But, 20 years later, I need it. I have to learn pretty quickly now."
Fortunately for the 32-year-old right-winger, his wife, Teresa, should be able to help him out in that department.
"She went to a French immersion school in Moose Jaw, SK, and took French all throughout her elementary school days and high school. She's a very intelligent person," praised Cracknell, on his better half. "She's excited [about the trade]. She's pretty good at French, so she'll get used to the city."
News of the deal came as a bit of a shock to the 32-year-old forward, who had been plying his trade with the Rangers' farm club - the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack - since late October.
"My wife and my seventh-month-old daughter [Lynde Christina Marie] just flew home to Dallas. We were supposed to move into a new apartment in Hartford on Monday. That clearly changed," said Cracknell, who began the season with the Dallas Stars, before being claimed off waivers by the Rangers. "I was sitting on the medical table waiting for an 11 o'clock bus ride to Rochester when I got the call, but it's not the first time."
It definitely isn't. There's no denying the fact that Cracknell has moved around quite a bit over the course of his career. A former ninth-round selection of the Calgary Flames - 279th overall - back in 2004, Cracknell has sported the colors of one ECHL team, six different AHL teams and six different NHL teams since entering the pro ranks in 2005-06 following a four-year stint with the WHL's Kootenay Ice.
"At the end of the day, you're just looking for an opportunity to play in the NHL. This is something that you hope will be a good opportunity to get back there," said Cracknell, who made the four-hour drive from Hartford to Syracuse on Thursday afternoon to join the AHL's Laval Rocket on their current two-game road trip. "Obviously, it's different when you have family involved. We haven't really been fortunate to be in a spot for more than a year, but it's a part of the business. It's just nice to know that a team wants you."
While Cracknell is used to moving around, his desire to make things work with the Rocket - and perhaps one day soon with the big club - really is off the charts.
"I'm not getting any younger. I've been in this situation before, so I have to take advantage of this opportunity now and just hope that I'll get another chance. It's about taking advantage of it right away. I want to make a great first impression, so that's the reason I'm here," said Cracknell, who put up two goals and three points in 15 outings for the Wolf Pack before packing his bags for the next stop on his hockey journey. "I have to go out and show that I can be successful."
He certainly was successful last season in Dallas, where he set career-highs across the board with 10 goals, 16 points and a plus-9 differential in 69 games.
"Personally, it was such a great season because I felt like I contributed to the group in many ways, especially just breaking a lot of my personal bests. I felt like I made great strides there," said Cracknell, on his time in the Lone Star State. "I just have to reset my mind and figure out another way to get back to the NHL. Hopefully, this is the right spot for me to do that."
If Cracknell does get the call from the Canadiens, he'll be reunited with childhood friend Jordie Benn.
"It all started for us back in Victoria. I moved there when I was 15 years old. We connected in this hockey group where we all trained together. We developed some good chemistry and a friendship that way. We usually end up going back in the summer after our seasons and we reconnect," explained Cracknell, who actually lived with the Benn brothers in Dallas for a month last year. "It was nice to have those guys welcome me to the team. It definitely made me feel a lot more comfortable. I owe a lot to Jamie and Jordie. Hopefully, Jordie and I can have a couple of dinners together and he can help me get used to my surroundings."
In addition to having familiar faces in Benn and fellow former Stars teammates Ales Hemsky and Antti Niemi nearby, both Teresa and Lynde Christina Marie will soon be joining him north of the border in Laval. The plan is for them to fly up for Christmas, their first as a family of three.
"Montreal is going to be a beautiful spot for Christmas. We haven't had a white Christmas for a while," concluded Cracknell. "It'll be pretty nice."