Tim Gleason retrieved his hockey equipment from the attic of his Raleigh home.
A veteran of 727 regular-season games and 32 playoff games in the NHL and now an unsigned free agent, Gleason had been waiting for a call, the call. The Carolina Hurricanes reached out on Tuesday.
“I figured I’d throw [the skates] on, have them sharpened up and get a little practice in me,” Gleason said after a 45-minute skate at Raleigh Center Ice, the beads of sweat dripping down his face and his fellow teammates ribbing him, asking if he had a pulse.
The Hurricanes invited Gleason to practice with the team, and head coach Bill Peters said they’ll evaluate his physical aptitude and NHL-readiness in about a week’s time.
“We’re going to be patient,” Peters said. “We’ve got to be fair to him and give him some time.”
Gleason, who took part in informal skates with the Hurricanes prior to this season, said it’s been three weeks since he last put in an on-ice work out, but his off-ice routine has remained constant.
“Three hard days in the gym and biking about 15 miles a day,” he said. “Decent shape.”
How else has the 32-year-old defenseman occupied his time?
“Family life, things like that,” he said before teasing, “maybe some restaurant ideas.”
But when hockey comes calling, it’s hard to ignore.
“It’s kind of up and down and you take it a day at a time. It’s life,” Gleason said. “If it’s not there, you try to move on and try to find something that interests you.”
So Gleason, certainly not an unfamiliar face in the Canes’ locker room, laced the skates back up and is giving it a go.
“I actually felt better than I thought I would. But it’s day one, so I’ll wake up tomorrow, and if I believe I can do it again, I’ll be here,” he said. “That’s how I’m kind of living it.”
“I was trying to find him in drills, and I think he was doing a good job staying out of some drills,” Peters joked. “He was only going when he felt ready, and that wasn’t every sixth or seventh time.”
Currently, the organization’s depth of defense is incredibly thin. The Hurricanes are carrying six healthy defensemen. James Wisniewski is out for the season after having surgery to repair his ACL. Ryan Murphy is sidelined for an undetermined amount of time with a concussion, though he was at Raleigh Center Ice on Wednesday watching practice and cracking jokes, a good sign for his progression through the protocol.
In Charlotte, Danny Biega, Keegan Lowe and Rasmus Rissanen are injured, as is first-year pro Tyler Ganly. In fact, the Checkers dressed just five defensemen in their most recent game on Saturday, only two of which – Trevor Carrick and Jaccob Slavin – are signed to NHL contracts. Kyle Hagel served as the team’s sixth blue liner, and he is a forward.
“I don’t know what the timetable is on some of these guys,” Peters said. “That’s a lot of bodies [injured]. We might need some D, and if we do, there possibly is a fit [with Gleason].”
In attempting to shore up the defense for the time being, it certainly doesn’t hurt to bring in a veteran presence, someone who is well-liked in the room and brings perhaps a missing element of snarl to the ice.
“He’s a real good guy. He’s a solid citizen and popular amongst his teammates that were here last year, especially the guys that he’s played with for multiple years,” Peters said. “He’s probably a different dimension from some of the D-men we do have.”
From Gleason’s perspective, he’s happy to simply be given the chance. Maybe he still has something left to give to the game, and maybe, just maybe, the Canes are in search of that.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe I could do it,” Gleason said. “They’re giving me an opportunity, and I’m going to make the best of it.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email