RALEIGH — Aaron Ward was on the seventh hole of MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary, playing with a member of Kid Rock’s band, when his cell phone rang this morning.
The number was familiar, and he didn’t have a good feeling about.
“It was [Boston Bruins general manager] Peter Chiarelli, and I knew it wasn’t good when your general manager calls you in the middle of the summer,” said Ward at a press conference at RBC Center Friday.
The news wasn’t all bad, as disappointing as it was to learn he was no longer with the Bruins. He was coming back to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he helped win a Stanley Cup in 2006 and still lives in the offseason. The Bruins shipped him back for a fourth round pick and forward Patrick Eaves, who they immediately placed on waivers.
But it was a complete surprise, Ward said.
“I was preparing to be with the Boston Bruins,” said Ward, who had already begun skating at the RecZone for a few weeks with Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour.
Ward has kept his family here after leaving the season after helping the Hurricanes to their only Stanley Cup victory in 2006.
“I know the majority of the players,” said Ward, comfortable with the move back. “Obviously, you have to get yourself acclimated to some of the partners you might have. [Joni] Pitkanen is new to me. [Joe] Corvo is new to me. [Recently acquired defenseman] Andrew Alberts isn’t. I played with him in Boston.”
Ward also knows Scott Walker, who punched him in the face during the Eastern Conference Semifinals, sparking a back-and-forth controversy in the media. He isn’t worried about smoothing things over with Walker.
After joking, “Tell him I can get him back in practice,” Ward took a mostly serious tone.
“Those are things that happen during the game,” said Ward. “It’s water under the bridge. I’m on his team now, and I’ve known him for a while. There’s a lot of emotion involved in the playoffs both in the media end of it and playing the game. … I’ll tell him how grateful I am to be here, how excited I am to play with him. I might step on his toes first, but yeah, Scott is a good guy. I know he’s a good guy, and that’s something that’s in the past.”
The Canes plan on pairing Ward with Pitkanen, Carolina’s highest-paid defenseman.
“We may have complementary styles,” said Ward. “It may allow him to be a little bit more risky in his approach to the game. He’s quite a gifted skater, offensively talented, and maybe where I fell in with my role with [Bruins top defender] Zdeno Chara was kind of to put him in a position to be successful, give him the puck at all opportunities. Maybe that’s the same approach I take with Pitkanen or whoever my partner is. Just be old reliable. Be back there in position, sound positioning, smart play.”
Ward, 36, was also asked about his age.
“I came off the ice feeling better than I ever have,” said Ward. “I wouldn’t mind playing past 37. I’m not [47-year-old unrestricted free agent Chris] Chelios. At 47, I hope that I’m with my kids, spending time there, but I don’t think I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”