By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
Brendan Woods is getting a bit antsy to get his professional hockey career started.
But a delayed flight is putting a crimp in his plans to get to Charlotte, where he will sign his first professional contract with the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes. He will begin his pro career with their American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte with the Checkers.
Woods will sign a three-year entry level contract with the Hurricanes once he gets to Charlotte.
“It’s not considered done,” Woods said of his first contract. “I have to go in and talk to the coaching staff and sign some stuff.” Woods and the Hurricanes have a verbal agreement.
With an NHL entry-level contract, Woods will receive $600,000 in 2013-14, $650,000 in 2014-15 and $700,000 in 2015-16. While playing at the AHL level, however, he would make $65,000 all three years of the deal. He will receive a $225,000 signing bonus.
But, the travel snags have put it on hold just a bit.
Woods, who played two seasons for the University of Wisconsin, is opting to forego his final two years of eligibility and sign with the Hurricanes.
“I was contacted after the season ended and I talked to (Carolina vice president of hockey operations) Ron Francis and they let me know how excited they are to have me in their organization,” Woods said. “They are looking forward to seeing me make it the next step with them and see where it goes.”
Woods traveled from Madison, Wisc. to Chicago on Tuesday and was supposed to fly out of Chicago at 3 p.m. Wednesday. That flight was delayed 5 hours.
Woods, who played two seasons ago with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, hasn’t skated since March 29 so it’s likely he will be practicing for a bit before making his first appearance in the Checker’s lineup. The Checkers have six regular-season games remaining before the Calder Cup playoffs begin April 22.
“I have no idea when I will play,” Woods said. “It’s all in the coaching staff’s hands. I haven’t skated since the season ended so I’ll probably start practicing and go through all that.”
Ultimately, the decision will be made by another former Lumberjack, Jeff Daniels, the Checkers’ head coach and general manager. Daniels played for the professional Muskegon Lumberjacks parts of four seasons from 1988-92.
Following the Badgers’ season, Woods talked with his parents and other family members about the prospects of signing with the Hurricanes.
“We looked at the pros and cons,” Woods said. “There’s a window of opportunity and you don’t know how long it will be there. It’s always been my dream to play pro hockey and it turned out to be sitting in front of me so it was hard to pass up.”
Woods said a solid second half to his season with Wisconsin helped make his decision a bit easier.
“The coaches at Wisconsin obviously wanted me to come back next year and play another year with them,” Woods said. “But, they are, obviously, happy for me, excited and wished me the best.”
It’s been an interesting journey for Woods, who played in the USHL with the Chicago Steel four years ago, but that season was marred by a broken leg.
The following season he played in Muskegon, followed by the last two for the Badgers.
“Juniors was huge because it’s kind of similar to pro life,” Woods said. “You play weekdays and back-to-back games and possible three in a row. In college, you practice all week to get ready for two games. I really enjoyed juniors and I learned a lot.”