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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

NHL vet Commodore tries to keep edge as Bulldog

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VANCOUVER -- The NHL lockout showed little sign of progress, so Mike Commodore decided to take action.

But his decision to sign a 25-game professional tryout offer with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs was not just an effort to salvage a season.

"I need to be playing, in my opinion, if I want to have a good chance of continuing my career," he said while the Bulldogs visited the Abbotsford Heat for a pair of games last weekend. "So here I am."

The 33-year-old Sherwood Park, Alta., native was among a long list of unrestricted NHL free agents who were left in limbo when the previous NHL collective bargaining agreement expired Sept. 15. Teams raced to sign younger core assets before the old CBA expired, but took a pass on older UFAs until new financial parameters, notably the salary-cap maximum and contracting rules, are established.

"Obviously, they were looking to lock up guys long-term with the expiry coming up," Commodore said. "But for guys like me, there wasn't a real rush, and then the lockout started."

Commodore split last season with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning. He is in his 13th pro season and has played for almost as many teams in that span.

Since being drafted by New Jersey in the second round (42nd overall) in 1992, he has logged 484 career NHL regular-season games with the Devils, Calgary, Carolina, Ottawa, Columbus, Detroit and Tampa. He has also suited up in 53 playoff games.

He won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06, played for the Calgary Flames squad that fell in seven games in the 2003-04 Stanley Cup finals to Tampa Bay and was a member of Canada's world championship-winning squad in 2007.

Commodore finds himself back in the league where he spent the last lockout, after spending 2004-05 with Calgary's former Lowell Loch Monsters farm club. The 6-4, 225-pound blue-liner considered playing in Europe this season, but opted for a loop he knew.

"I'm playing in front of people that I would like to see me play -- NHL scouts, GMs and stuff like that," he said. "I'm just trying to put myself in the best situation."

Commodore finished even in the plus-minus department as Hamilton split a pair of games with the Heat. Playing his first game since last spring, he went minus-1 in a 5-1 loss, while racking up eight penalty minutes, all on minors. In the second game, he was on the ice as rookie Brendan Gallagher scored the only goal the Bulldogs needed in a 3-0 upset of the league-leading hosts.

In the process of trying to earn another NHL job, Commodore is showing Montreal Canadiens prospects like Gallagher and Jared Tinordi, both 20-year-old rookies, what it takes to have a long pro career.

"It's different," Commodore said. "It's fun. I was 20 once too, playing in the American Hockey League (with the Albany River Rats) my first year, and I remember older guys that were on my team and how they treated me. By no means do I think I'm old. But for hockey, I've been around for a little while.

"It's just funny to listen to the guys talk. It's nice to be around some young blood and some fresh players. I'm enjoying it so far."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2012 D3

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