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Veteran White looking for work

Blue-liner facing long odds at Jets' camp

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A year ago, Ian White thought he saw how the story of his NHL career would unfold. With Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart's departures from the Detroit Red Wings opening some holes, White thought he could be the defenceman to fill them, or at least take on a bigger role.

But when the script of the shortened 2012-13 season was actually written, White found himself cast as a supporting part, and then pushed right off the page.

The Steinbach-raised defenceman sat as a healthy scratch for 18 games, the second most of any Red Wing.

"It's brutal," White said Thursday, still flushed from the first day of the Winnipeg Jets' training camp. "You never want to sit out like that, especially when you know you can help the team... It was definitely not the way I thought it was going to go."

'The cap going down threw a big monkey wrench into everyone's plans'

-- Ian White

Worse, he struggled to understand why, especially coming off a solid 2011-12 campaign alongside Lidstrom, where he notched 32 points in 77 games -- behind only Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall amongst Red Wings blue-liners -- and pushed a positive possession game against tough competition. Maybe, White mused, the Red Wings just wanted bigger guys on the back end.

"I've heard that my whole life," said White, who stands at a compact 5-10.

Time to write a new script, then. After signing a professional tryout contract with the Jets on Tuesday, White at least has another chance.

Things could be worse. The off-season was a rough one, as the plunging salary cap choked the free agent market and left many battle-worn NHL journeymen hunting for work. A bunch of them still are.

While that was going on, White retreated to his family's off-season home in Kenora. He tucked offers from Europe into his back pocket and waited, if a little nervously.

"Getting closer to camp, it seemed like there was hardly anyone being signed," he said. "The cap going down threw a big monkey wrench into everyone's plans."

So now, for a veteran of five NHL teams and 503 regular-season games, a new plan: White will battle to make the cut. The Jets have 18 blue-liners in camp, with seven on one-way NHL contracts already and few spots up for grabs. There's also Zach Redmond, who appeared to solidly install himself with the big club before his horrific leg injury last season and talented youngsters Jacob Trouba and Julian Melchiori will push for their NHL chance.

A pro, though, can't get caught up worrying about all of that.

"Your mindset's gotta be that you're going to fight for a job, and show you deserve to be here and can help the team win," White said. "I know I have a lot of game left. I'm only 29, and as a D-man, that's kind of where guys start really getting into their comfort zone."

Besides, there's a little extra spark in getting a chance at home, for once. White remembers playing shinny as a kid and dreaming about pulling on that old Winnipeg jersey; he has his own kids now, aged four and two, and his family will soon settle into a house in Waverley West.

"It's a really neat feeling, not having to move," he said. "It seems like I've been moving for the last decade, every year, twice a year."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2013 0

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