Adam Hall does not need to look at the newly installed pictures inside the Lightning locker room to remind himself of why he is there.
He admits the decorative additions lining the walls of the team’s headquarters provide an aesthetic touch to what was previously an ordinary white backdrop, but they also depict many of the same sentiments that Hall has elsewhere, stored away in his memory.
After all, he is just two years removed from his first Stanley Cup Finals appearance as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Hall still vividly recalls the feeling of skating on the game’s biggest stage.
“It’s an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget,” Hall said. “You get that close, you get a taste of it, and there’s nothing more than that in hockey that makes you want to get back there.”
For most players, the desire to merely experience the Stanley Cup Finals for a second time is motivation in itself to accomplish the lofty goal again. But for Hall, it is first necessary to take small steps before making a giant leap.
Hall is certainly eager about returning to the Lightning this season, but he has much more to prove. After all, he does have a career to resurrect and skewed perceptions to dispel.
Hall, who played the majority of the 2008-09 season grinding on the Lightning’s fourth line, has shown his toughness both on and off the ice in recent weeks, as he scored two goals in the team’s preseason opener against Dallas on September 21, while eluding the organization’s final cuts to make the opening night roster.
Against the odds, the NHL veteran has maintained a positive attitude while coupling his skills on the ice with a combination of pride and determination.
“This has been a good experience,” Hall said. “It’s funny, the way this game takes you on a lot of unexpected turns, but you just have to enjoy the ride and learn from everything. It’s fun for me to never stop learning.”
If Hall has learned anything, it has been that nothing in hockey is guaranteed. Despite being signed to a three-year, one-way contract, the 6-foot-3, 213-pound winger spent the entire 2009-10 season in Norfolk of the American Hockey League, appearing in 79 games for the Lightning’s top affiliate. He never received the call to return to the big club, for which he last played 74 games in 2008-09, his highest total since 2005-06.
Rather than looking at the experience as a setback, Hall approached his full season in the AHL with open arms, viewing it as an opportunity to improve his game. The result? Hall finished second among all Admirals skaters with an AHL career-high 41 points just seven months after being cut from Tampa Bay’s training camp, at which he feels he was “never given a fair chance”.
“There are a million different ways you can look at things,” the Kalamazoo, Michigan native added. “You do what you can with what you are given, so every day I tried to show up at the rink and give it everything I had. People notice those things. You wait for your opportunity, and somebody is going to notice.”
General Manager Steve Yzerman, Head Coach Guy Boucher and the rest of the coaching staff have certainly paid attention, as they have provided Hall with a second chance to prove that he belongs in the NHL.
After all, coming into this year’s training camp, that’s all the Lightning forward ever wanted.
*TampaBayLightning.com’s Carlos Armstrong contributed to this story.