European vacation

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

When Jamie Heward packed up his things and got out of North America following the 2001-02 season, he thought his National Hockey League career was done.

Heward had skated for the Maple Leafs, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets and wanted to play in Europe to make a few more bucks before he retired. But it did not work out that way for the 35-year-old Regina native.

After three seasons in Switzerland Heward is in his second year on the Washington Capitals' blue line.

"Years ago it was different," Heward said. "Guys would pretty much go over to never come back and now it has changed. It's not necessarily a death sentence (for a career back home) like it used to be."

Heward is a part of a small trend of players who went to play in Europe and returned to the NHL, whether it was native Europeans or others.

Petteri Nummelin, who was with Columbus in 2000-01, spent five seasons in Switzerland before coming back to the NHL this season to play for Minnesota. Ville Peltonen, most recently in the NHL in 2000-01 with Nashville, is with Florida after playing the past five seasons in Finland and Switzerland.

Others who have made gone overseas and reversed include Glen Metropolit, Peter Schaefer, Anders Eriksson, Stanislav Chistov and Petr Tenkrat.

"I lucked out," Heward said. "I went over at a time when the NHL and the players were preparing for a lockout or a strike. I jumped the gun and got to establish myself. I don't regret it all. You play a lot, you play on big ice, you develop your skills."

Heward bumped into Capitals coach Glen Hanlon during a tournament in Europe, starting the path that led to Heward's return to the NHL.

" 'Never say die' is a good motto," Heward said. "I'm thankful to Glen and (Capitals general manager George McPhee) for giving me an opportunity."

WHITE RED IN THE FACE

The Maple Leafs dropped the ball regarding defenceman Ian White's "apology" for his recent brushes with police.

Nine days ago, White was charged with driving with a suspended licence. That came after he was convicted in September of impaired driving, stemming from a charge a year earlier.

White said he was going to issue a statement when originally contacted about the charges on Thursday night. But he did not, and though he reportedly apologized to his teammates, he did not offer one publicly.

Given that the odd kid or two in Toronto just might think of the Leafs as role models, it would have been wise for an apology to spill out of White's mouth immediately when he addressed the situation with reporters after the game between the Leafs and Capitals on Friday night.

WOLSKI WISER

A year ago, Wojtek Wolski was tearing up the Ontario Hockey League en route to a 128-point season with the Brampton Battalion, which led to winning the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player.

As a rookie now with the Colorado Avalanche, Wolski recently demonstrated how quickly he can learn a lesson. A healthy scratch for a game Wednesday against Anaheim after struggling for a stint, Wolski responded with four points in the Avalanche's 4-1 win against Vancouver on Saturday.

"I was upset at myself that I didn't play (against the Ducks)," Wolski told the Denver Post. "The coaching staff has given me plenty of opportunity."

For the most part, Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville is pleased with Wolski, who has 15 points (six goals and nine assists) in 22 games and is plus-1. But he wants to see more out of the 20-year-old, who was born in Poland and grew up in Mississauga.

"His board work can be stronger and he has to eliminate the turnovers at the offensive blue line," Quenneville told the Rocky Mountain News. "He has to complement (his strong offensive side) by doing little things, maybe coming up with loose pucks, making sure it gets out at the blue line. He's a young kid and this is part of the learning curve."

THE WEEK AHEAD

The New York Islanders' Alexei Yashin is scheduled to have an MRI on his right knee today after a collision with the Capitals' Matt Bradley on Saturday ... The game between the Anaheim Ducks and Oilers tomorrow night in Edmonton not only marks Chris Pronger's return to the city but also will be Scott Niedermayer's 1,000th NHL game ... Friday is the signing deadline for Group II free agents.


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