The offseason isn't far coming to a close, and that was clear Thursday morning when a group of 11 skated at the RecZone while it was still dark outside.
Rod Brind'Amour was there, of course, as was Chad LaRose, but that was it for current Hurricanes. The rest of the group: Aaron Ward, Craig Adams, Bates Battaglia (and younger brother Anthony), Jesse Boulerice, Shane Willis, Bowling Green forward Kai Kantola, practice goalie Jorge Alves and Jack Friesen, son of Canes trainer Pete Friesen.
With hockey camps monopolizing the ice at this time of year, Camp Brind'Amour started early, at 6:30 a.m. They'll continue to dodge camps and figure skaters over the next few weeks, until the official unofficial practices start at the end of August.
Until then, players will continue to trickle back into the Triangle. Cam Ward is back and may start skating next week. The players with kids in school are headed back now.
"We'll have a pretty big group of guys then," Brind'Amour said. "It'll get a little more serious."
Not that anything Brind'Amour does is less than serious.
"One of the best things about living in North Carolina is going to the beach, but you have to get yourself out of that state of relaxation," Aaron Ward said. "Roddy's a good guy to do that with."
Brind'Amour has been skating on his own since April as he rehabs his knee injury, so he's glad to have the company now.
"It's time to pick up the pace a little bit," Brind'Amour said. 'When you're by yourself, that's one thing. Passing and going a little harder is the next step."