Ladd Back in a hockey town

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:20 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Andrew Ladd already has an idea of what he and his former Atlanta Thrashers teammates are in for as the NHL returns to Winnipeg for the upcoming season.

Ladd played before a packed houses of 15,000-plus at the MTS Centre during exhibition games for Team Canada against Finland and Switzerland prior to the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship that was staged in Grand Forks, N.D.

“I was able to see the atmosphere in the MTS Centre and the passion that Winnipeg people have for hockey,” Ladd said from Vancouver on Wednesday. “It was something I’ll never forget, with all the flags in the crowd and how loud it was. That was kind of the first thing I thought about when I heard there was a chance we could be going there.”

Team Canada held their training camp in Winnipeg and Gimli, but Ladd didn’t get a chance to experience much of what the city has to offer.

However, he’s looking forward to being back in a hockey-mad market.

“For sure, it’s one of the things I missed in going from Chicago, where you’re playing in front of a full house every night and you have that energy and atmosphere, not only in the rink but all around the city. You could feel it everywhere you went,” said Ladd. “Obviously, in Canada you’re having that every day, whether it’s the middle of the summer or the middle of winter, there’s always that excitement about hockey. As a player, you can thrive off that.”

Once Ladd gets to town, he’ll have a few potential tour guides in former Chicago Blackhawks teammates Jonathan Toews and Cam Barker.

“(Toews) is already trying to get me to rent his apartment,” said Ladd. “He’s trying to swindle some business in there.”

Ladd is a restricted free agent and while he came close to signing a long-term contract extension during the season, the instability of the situation surrounding the Thrashers franchise put talks on hold.

“I’m definitely hoping for that,” said Ladd, when asked about the prospects of a long-term deal. “For me, it would be nice to sit down and have a conversation about where this is going and what everybody’s plans are, so you have more of an idea of the direction everything is headed.”

As soon as True North works out who will be in charge of their hockey operations decisions, you can expect locking up Ladd will be a top priority.

Already a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Ladd would love to experience a similar feeling in Winnipeg.

“I’ve won it in a non-traditional hockey market in Raleigh (North Carolina) and in Chicago, which is one of the bigger hockey markets in the U.S.,” said Ladd. “I guess the next step would be to win one in Canada. To try to top the one in Chicago, that would be on the only way to do it. A lot of these guys haven’t even been in the playoffs yet and it’s a whole new game. It’s what you play for.”

Up close and personal

Andrew Ladd

Age: 25

Hometown: Maple Ridge, B.C.

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 205 pounds

Position: Left wing

— Chosen in the first round (fourth overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

— Two-time Stanley Cup winner (2006 with Carolina Hurricanes and 2010 with Chicago Blackhawks)

— NHL career stats: 402GP, 92G, 116P, 208P, 219PIM in regular season, 53GP, 8G, 7A, 15P, 28P in Stanley Cup playoffs


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