RALEIGH, N.C. - Tim Gleason is always at his best near the blue-line, and during Wednesday's skate, that's where the Carolina Hurricanes defenceman made his most impressive move.
Only this time it wasn't a bruising check or a blistering slapshot—but a waltz jump.
The Hurricanes' enforcer shed his tough-guy image for some figure skating with fellow U.S. Olympians Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora.
Gleason held his own, though clearly out of his element.
"I don't have many talents, other than maybe shooting or hitting somebody," he said.
The Olympians were in town in advance of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, which come to Greensboro in January. They showed Gleason—who wore hockey skates without a toe pick—how to do a side-by-side Axel. And they watched as he attempted what skating officials described as a "tiny waltz jump."
Still, don't expect anybody to call Gleason "Twinkletoes" just yet. His skates weren't more than a few inches off the ice, and he was needled by Ladwig for spinning in the wrong direction during one mini-jump.
"I would have to give it deductions for the artistic mark, but in terms of technical ability and lack of experience, I would give him a 6.0 on that," Ladwig quipped. "I think he was playing up the fact that he was a hockey player. I think he can skate."
It was a step out of character for Gleason, the most physical member of Carolina's defensive corps who during a six-year NHL career has logged 385 penalty minutes and more than a few fights. He was on the U.S. hockey team that claimed the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Ladwig and Evora were there, too, finishing 10th in the pairs short program—tops among American teams.
On this day, at least, the Hurricanes' medical staff could breathe easy: Gleason didn't try any of the more challenging aerials.
Instead he joked that "you guys should wear helmets" to Ladwig and Evora, who performed their signature lift, the Militano.
"I don't trust myself to get that high," he said.
It was a unique way for Gleason to limber up for the start of training camp later this week. The Hurricanes hit the ice for the first time Saturday, open the exhibition season three nights later and start the regular season Oct. 7 in Finland.
"It couldn't come sooner," said Gleason, who missed the final 3½ weeks of last season with a broken foot. "You're almost sick of training. I just want to get on the ice and get to playing some games here."