VANCOUVER - Adam Cracknell flashes a smile when summing up the journey through professional hockey that brought him to the Vancouver Canucks.
"A lot of driving," he said. "I wouldn't change it. I'm here now. It's all led to this."
The 30-year-old, who didn't even sign with the Canucks until the end of August, surprised many observers, including his new coach, by making the team out of training camp and will be on the roster when Vancouver opens the season Wednesday in Calgary against the Flames.
"It's a lot of learning, a lot of one-year deals. This is my seventh one," said Cracknell. "You can't take your foot off the gas. It's just how it has to be and that's how I've had to approach my career."
While most of the talk in Vancouver during pre-season centred around whether or not the team would keep highly touted 19-year-old forwards Jared McCann and Jake Virtanen ? both players made the team along with 22-year-old defenceman Ben Hutton ? Cracknell also caught the eye of management, beating out Linden Vey for the fourth-line centre's job.
"That's just an example of a guy who came in, had a great camp and was a great fit for that spot," said Canucks president of hockey operations Trevor Linden. "Adam's a tremendous person and we brought him in for his character and his leadership."
Added head coach Willie Desjardins: "I certainly had an open mind, (but) I didn't foresee him here."
Cracknell has six goals and 11 assists in 82 career regular-season NHL games to go along with a goal in 10 playoff contests.
A ninth-round pick of the Flames back in 2004, the Victoria native was in the St. Louis Blues' organization for six seasons before signing with the Los Angeles Kings last summer. He was cut in training camp, claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets and eventually wound up back in the AHL.
"I've had a taste of playing in the National Hockey League and I just don't want to give up on it," said the six-foot-two 210-pound Cracknell. "Getting to the NHL is one thing, staying in the NHL's another. There's always guys on your heels. I just have to come in here and prove they made the right choice."
Cracknell played for Canucks assistant coach Glen Gulutzan in the minors and will likely line up alongside Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust, while also killing penalties.
"Heavy game, playing physical, that's what it's all about in the West. I know that," said Cracknell. "Dorsett and Prust know that so if I can help contribute, help those guys out playing physical, maybe take some of the load of those guys, I think we'll be a successful line."
Cracknell ??? who had 93 points in his final junior season with the WHL's Kootenay Ice ??? said he took a different approach to Canucks' camp after last year's disappointment in L.A.
"I just came in here with a different attitude of just worry about myself and not look at the depth chart," he said. "That's where you get mentally exhausted. I just worried about myself. I'm not going to try and play anyone else's game other than mine."
That attitude appealed to the Canucks, one that Cracknell doesn't plan on changing now that he has another chance in the big time.
"You have a lot of friends that have to go overseas because it's just the way it goes," he said. "You want to take advantage of an opportunity like this. It goes by quick, your career."
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