Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Aye, but he's a fine Ladd

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Andrew LADD wasn't in uniform, just for the record. So when he made his first public appearance in Winnipeg it should be noted the captain's 'C' he so proudly wears on game day was nowhere to be seen.

That said, it took roughly two minutes before an assembled throng of media who had gathered late Thursday morning understood why the 25-year-old product of Maple Ridge, B.C. was anointed captain by the Atlanta Thrashers last November -- less than two months after pulling on their colours for the first time.

He raved about Winnipeg, spoke highly of the blueprint of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and owner Mark Chipman and vowed to pass along his scouting report of River City to his teammates.

Yes, the dude just oozes leadership.

"(The visit) came together in the last five or so days," explained Ladd. "I just wanted to come in and meet everybody and see where everything was going, talk with management and get their vision and then provide the guys with a better understanding of what's going on, too."

Now, before all the cynics out there point it out, it is true Ladd is a restricted free agent seeking a new deal before July 1. And so, yes, it's shrewd business so say all the right things about a new town and a new employer who may soon be signing your paycheque.

But if hockey fans have learned anything about Ladd during the course of his career -- both as a junior and a pro -- it's this: the man is a straight shooter. His game isn't complicated and neither is his approach to leading. Remember, he's already won two Stanley Cups -- with Carolina and Chicago -- and wanted so badly to be on the ice when the Blackhawks won in 2010 he suited up for the final game, it was revealed later, with a fractured shoulder and torn ligaments.

Sure, the money in this game is fantastic -- he signed an extension last year worth $2.35 million to avoid arbitration and could come close to doubling that in a new deal -- but Ladd is about more than that. He wants another ring. He'd love to be the first captain with Winnipeg's 'new' NHL team.

And, after bouncing from Carolina to Chicago to Atlanta to Winnipeg, he and his fiancee -- who are getting married next month -- would like to put down roots somewhere.

"It's a big honour, a big responsibility and it's something I don't take lightly," said Ladd of wearing the 'C.' "From my end, I've always been a hard-working guy, probably less of a talker and more of showing by example. It's not going to change me, but I'm definitely excited about the prospect of the opportunity.

"I've been kinda knocked around... this will be my fourth spot, three teams but fourth spot, in my six or seven years. It would be nice to be in the same place for awhile and be able to lock up at the end of the summer and know you're coming back to the same place."

Ladd met with Cheveldayoff and Chipman Wednesday morning and while the actual nuts and bolts on a new deal were apparently not addressed, the Winnipeg management team has made no secret getting his name on a contract is high atop their list of priorities. He had been apparently close to signing a deal with Thrashers GM Rick Dudley in the spring, but that was shelved with the franchise's sale and relocation to Winnipeg.

 

"We haven't talked (contract) at all," said Ladd. "I know they've got a lot of things on their plate with the draft coming up and they're still dealing with staff stuff. It'll come probably in the next few days. I'm sure we'll start talking and getting going.

"It's a big commitment on both sides. It's not something either side takes lightly. But first impressions were great and I'm looking forward to working with them."

Ladd's agent is former Winnipegger Mark MacKay, who planned to tour Ladd and his fiancee around the various Winnipeg neighbourhoods and interesting spots. At the same time, while Ladd watched the craziness that has followed the news of the NHL's return from afar, his arrival Wednesday also allowed him to do his own sniff test on the buzz.

"It's been amazing," he said. "It was crazy to see and as a player it's fun to see that.

"I've talked to lots of guys. Everyone's excited to get going here, eager to check the city out and see what's going on here and check out the facilities. Hopefully after today I'll be able to give them a better idea of what it's like."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 10, 2011 C1

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