Tim Gleason kept waiting for the phone to ring, for an NHL team to say they wanted him.
The defenseman, an unrestricted free agent, was sure someone would need a veteran who was 32, who had played 727 NHL games, who was in playoff games last season for the Washington Capitals.
But in late October, he stopped skating. He continued to train with Bill Burniston at The Performance Academy in Apex but put away the skates.
“My stuff was up in the attic,” he said.
And then the Carolina Hurricanes called. His old team.
Gleason was back on the ice Wednesday at Raleigh Center Ice, accepting a professional tryout offer from the Canes. He was huffing and puffing a little — or maybe more than a little — but happy to have another chance.
“I actually felt better than I thought, but it’s Day One,” a smiling Gleason said, noting he had not skated in three weeks. “It’s a day at a time, a step at a time. I was a little wobbly out there because it’s been a little bit, but I’ve been doing it forever.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe I could do it. They’re giving me the opportunity and I want to try and make the best of it.”
Gleason has played 546 games in nine seasons for Carolina and was a member of the U.S. Olympic team in 2010. He returned to Carolina as a free agent last season, signing a one-year contract, and was traded by the Canes late in the season to the Caps.
Gleason got in 17 regular-season games for Washington, then 14 playoff games — the playoff experience his first since 2009 with the Canes.
The Canes traded for defenseman James Wisniewski in June, only to have the veteran suffer a season-ending knee injury in the opener at Nashville. Defenseman Ryan Murphy is out with a concussion and the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) also have injuries on the back end. Gleason may be needed to fill a need.
Canes coach Bill Peters said Gleason would be evalauted in practice over the next week or so as he gets back up to speed, and then a decision would be made.
“It’s more of a mindset,” Gleason said. “I know I can still play the game. It’s just going up and down, doing it every day of your life, then you’re not. But then there’s a thought in the back of your mind there might be that opportunity.”