Although the fact that the Hurricanes sought to re-acquire Aaron Ward in a trade was probably enough by itself to ensure that last year’s incident with Scott Walker was in the past, Ward went a step further today.
“Those are things that happen during the game,’ he said. “It’s water under the bridge and I’m on his team now. I’ll see Scotty Walker when he comes in, shake his hand, tell him how grateful I am to be here, how excited I am to play with him and it will be in the past.
“But I might step on his toes first,” Ward added, showing that he’s still got the sense of humor that made him famous in his first tour of duty.
Ill feelings from a few months ago were easy to brush aside given Ward’s approval of the move. Although he made it clear that he enjoyed playing in Boston and that it was a little bittersweet to leave a good situation, Carolina would have been his preferred destination if asked.
“I was golfing with some of the band members from Kid Rock when I got a phone call,” said Ward. “It was [Boston GM] Peter Chiarelli. He conveyed to me that he wasn’t going to look to trade me to any place other than Carolina, so it worked out well.”
Ward has always kept his offseason home nearby and was outspoken about his love for the area. Just a few weeks ago, he was instrumental in convincing a former Bruins teammate, Andrew Alberts, that Carolina would be his best bet. As fate would have it, they’re now teammates once again.
“You never burn bridges,” said Ward. “You embrace all the great opportunities you’ve had with every team, and I’ve had some great experiences here in Carolina.
As he’s done for the last several years, Ward has been skating with former-teammate-turned-current teammate Rod Brind’Amour at the RecZone for the last three weeks. In that sense, not much has changed, save for a minor detail or two.
“Now I maybe feel a little bit more comfortable to start getting on his case about his age,” Ward said with a laugh.
At 36, Ward’s not exactly a spring chicken himself, so he’ll already relishing the opportunity to pick on Brind’Amour and Ray Whitney, the only players currently on the roster with more life experience.
However, Ward didn’t give any indication that he’s slowing down. He’s on the last year of his contract, but hinted that he’d like to play at least one more year after this one.
“I’m 36 years old, but I came out of this season feeling better than I ever have,” he said. “Right now, I’m so physically ready to play and feel great about it. I don’t want to start showing my hand, but I’m not going to deny that I’m looking beyond this year. I wouldn’t mind playing further on past 37.
“I’m not Chelios,” he joked, referring to 47-year-old blueliner Chris, who may not be done yet, “But I don’t think I see the light at the end of the tunnel quite yet.”
Ward echoed many of the things that Jim Rutherford said earlier in the day about the ease of the transition, as he’s familiar with many of the core players on the Carolina roster from the 2006 championship team, and even played under Paul Maurice in his first tour of duty prior to that.
However, there are a few people he’ll still have to get to know, including expected defensive partner Joni Pitkanen.
“We may have complementary styles,” said Ward of that pairing. “I may allow him to be a little more risky in his approach to his game. My role with [Boston partner] Zdeno Chara was to put him in a position to be successful and give him the puck at all opportunities. Maybe that’s the same approach I take with a Pitkanen or whoever my partner is. I’ll just be old reliable back there in sound positioning and smart play.”
For those planning to head out to tonight’s Summer Fun Fest at the RBC Center, Ward will be there at around 6 p.m.