WHEELING - Often times after hockey season ends, the last thing a guy wants to do is put on a pair of skates. Wheeling Nailers defenseman Adam Ross isn't one of those, though the ones he puts on wouldn't work so well on a sheet of ice.
Ross, 25, grew up as an InLine skater in his hometown of Red Deer, Alberta, and has continued to work at the sport ever since. This summer he achieved what may turn out to be the pinnacle of his hockey career, and he's got the gold medal to prove it.
Ross, 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, and Team Canada traveled to Ingolstadt, Germany, in July and knocked off the host country, 9-5, in the finals of the IIHF InLine Hockey World Championships. It was the Canadians' second title overall, and first in 14 years.
Adam Ross fires a shot during Nailers practice Wednesday afternoon at WesBanco Arena. The Nailers open the preseason Friday in Cincinnati.
Photo by Shawn Rine
''It's something we've been working toward for five years,'' Ross said after the opening of Wheeling Nailers training camp Wednesday at WesBanco Arena. ''As I was growing up there had been talks about trying to get a team in the tournament, so I was kind of hoping it would come about.
''Luckily the team was able to form right as I was moving on to my NCAA hockey career.''
Ross said it started with an extremely crowded open tryout five years ago, as many people in his country have played the sport for several years. From there it was built into what now is a championship program.
''We don't wear the traditional Hockey Canada logo -we have our own logo,'' Ross said. ''Obviously growing up as a Canadian hockey kid, that's what you want to do is put on that logo. At first I almost thought it wasn't that big of a deal, but once you put that maple leaf on it's pretty unbelievable.''
InLine hockey isn't all that different from the version that's played on the ice. It's 4-on-4 action, includes a red line and only a limited amount of hitting takes place since most players don't wear shoulder pads, according to Ross.
''You can play the body a little bit, but there's no taking runs at guys or big open-ice hits or anything,'' he said. ''It's a lot like ice hockey but with less rules.''
The World Championships is a seven-day event with 16 teams split into 'A' and 'B' groups, with the former being the premier teams. The clubs compete in a round-robin.
''If you come in last in the 'A' division then you're relegated to the 'B' the next year. The Winner of the 'B' comes up to the 'A,' '' Ross said. ''Every game you've go to play hard. You never know what is going to happen, but the last thing you want to do is get relegated down to the 'B' side.''
Ross said playing for his country was an incredible honor, and serving as an alternate captain for the team was icing on the cake.
''I guess now I'm getting to be one of the veteran guys on the team, and with each year you obviously are able to take on a little bit more of a leadership role,'' he said. ''It's a great feeling to have the trust of the coaching staff to lead the boys.''
As for the upcoming ECHL season, Ross knows it's going to be a challenge, but it's one he looks forward to. With no end in sight for the NHL lockout, the level of competition in the league is going to be heightened.
''For guys like myself who spent the entire year in the (ECHL) last year, I'm really looking to move my way up and I think this is a great challenge,'' he said. ''Obviously the league is better, and if you can prove yourself against the guys coming down it should help your chances of moving up if the lockout ends and they get some space up in the American League.''
Twenty-two players were on the ice for the opening day, including 10 players who saw action with the Nailers last season.
''The last month or so you're itching to get out here pretty bad,'' said Ross, who said InLine hockey provides a form of offseason conditioning. ''There's going to be a lot of competition to be in the lineup every night. It is a little bit nerve-wracking as a guy on an ECHL contract.''