Quintin Laing has seven points in 30 games for Abbotsford this season. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
The past year in Quintin Laing's hockey life took him from the NHL to the ECHL and finally to the American League. Geographically speaking, the journey featured stops in Washington, D.C., Saskatoon, Sask., Victoria, B.C., and Abbotsford, B.C.
It appears the veteran of 79 NHL games has stopped the carousel that his hockey career had become. The workmanlike left winger endured a rough free-agent market and the long climb back up hockey's professional ladder.
Signed to a tryout deal by the Abbotsford Heat Nov. 10, Laing brought his Calder Cup championship experience to town, so his ascension in Abbotsford did not require much time. Within two weeks, Laing had a contract from the Heat and by early January, he had a ‘C’ stitched on his jersey.
Since landing in Abbotsford, Laing has recorded one goal in 30 games, while playing a steady checking role as a 31-year-old. Heat coach Jim Playfair raved about Laing in a statement released by the club after Laing's appointment as team captain.
“From the moment that Quintin became a part of our team, we knew he was a natural leader,” Playfair said. “Quintin earned instant respect from our team and he helped focus our dressing room with leadership stability right away."
But it was a tough climb, particularly when you consider the fact Laing is not a run-of-the-mill veteran. He had logged 36 games with the Washington Capitals last season, but a contract extension failed to materialize in the summer. Back home in Saskatoon, the closest thing Laing had to a team was his practice time with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Laing skated with the Huskies from Monday through Friday to stay in shape.
"It was a tough summer," he explained. "I think it was a tough summer for a lot of guys. I think it caught a lot of guys off guard, including me. The next thing I knew it was Halloween and I was still at home."
Finally, Laing wrangled a deal with the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings, where former AHL enforcer and Hershey teammate Peter Vandermeer was the captain. Laing had not been in the ECHL since a 16-game stint during the 2001-02 season with the Jackson Bandits, a club that no longer exists.
He admitted there came a point where he wasn’t going to be picky about his opportunities; far too many of his peers were also out of work for him to be choosy.
"It was definitely an adjustment,” he said. “You've got to set your goals differently, for sure."
Laing spent four games with the Salmon Kings and earned a look from the Heat, a young club in need of some veteran perspective.
“It was an adjustment,” Laing said of his job search. "I've been playing professionally for 10 years and pretty much every year I have had a job at the latest by the first week of July. It was new territory. It was tough to keep positive and keep motivated."
Now Laing has settled in with a club and the Heat are in a tough battle in an ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race.
"Luckily I had a great wife and some really good parents who kept me up and kept telling me that things were going to work out,” Laing said. “It’s hard to believe that when you see training camp is over and teams’ rosters are filling up. You’ve just got to believe and believe in your heart that things happen for a reason."
THIS & THAT
• An eight-goal run earned Portland's Mark Mancari weekly player honors.
• Referee David Banfield and linesmen Bobby Goodman and Tim Kotyra will handle Monday's AHL All-Star Game. The event will mark the trio's first all-star event. The 7 p.m. Eastern start can be seen on TSN, plus a variety of outlets across the United States. The skills competition will go on Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern and also air on TSN and select US outlets.
• Just four points separate the first-place Peoria Rivermen from the seventh-place Chicago Wolves in the West Division.
• Dustin Boyd's hot stick continues to perform for the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Montreal farmhand put up his second hat trick of the season in a 3-0 win over visiting Manitoba Wednesday, giving him 14 goals in 17 games since being assigned to the AHL by the parent Canadiens.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.