The past seven months, Christian Hanson has had a lot of unwanted time on his hands.
Hanson, a Peters Township High School graduate, saw his season with the AHL's Hershey Bears come to an end in February when he took an opponent's skate to the right wrist.
Now, the 26-year-old Pittsburgh native is anxious to get back on the ice. Hanson signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Boston Bruins earlier this month, and has spent the summer working out in Crafton to get ready for next season.
The Bruins will mark Hanson's third franchise since his pro debut in 2009. Hanson signed with the Maple Leafs as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame, and played in 42 games for Toronto. He scored three goals and had six assists in the NHL, but the Maple Leafs opted not to retain him when his contract was up.
After the 2011 season, he signed with the Washington Capitals, and spent last season with their AHL affiliate in Hershey.
"I've played pro for three years kind of bouncing between leagues," Hanson said. "I'm at that age now, where you've really got to make a strong effort to push.
"I'm not old, but at the same time, I'm not coming right out of college or juniors. It's do or die time for me."
Hanson said he had a few teams approach him when free agency began July 1, but the Bruins offered him the best chance to make the NHL roster out of training camp.
"That's what I'm looking for, an organization where I can go in and show what I can do and if I deserve to make the team then I'll do it," he said.
One thing that won't be an issue is the right wrist that was torn up in February. Despite severing his ring finger tendon, Hanson said he was lucky the injury didn't do any nerve damage.
"I have no residual effects except for a sweet scar that makes it look like I got bit by a shark," he joked.
Hanson had actually hoped to return before the Bears' season ended in April, but was cleared just two days after they were eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs.
"It's tough to be out and have to sit there, watch the team play and know you're not going to be out there for a while," he said. "It's something that I obviously didn't see coming."
Hanson, whose father Dave gained fame in the hockey cult classic "Slap Shot," can add that injury to the list of professional hockey experiences that will only help him when he joins the Bruins for training camp.
From the whirlwind start to his pro career -- Hanson was playing for the Maple Leafs just six days after Notre Dame was eliminated from the NCAA tournament -- to his time playing with Toronto, Hanson has learned what it takes to make it in the NHL.
"It's definitely a job," he said. "You think playing professional sports is all glitzy and glamour, but it's not. Like anything, it's a job.
"As soon as you get too comfortable and you start to get complacent, that's when they're going to find somebody to take your job."
Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Hanson learned how to effectively use his size during his senior year with the Irish, a skill that's invaluable when trying to make it in the pros.
"Most guys with that kind of size don't necessarily have the skills that he has," Jackson said. "He's got good puck skills and he's got good instincts offensively."
Hanson isn't quite sure exactly when he'll report to training camp for the Bruins; that depends on when the NHL and Players' Association agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.
"I think right now it's just kind of do what you do to get ready for the season, and then as it approaches and gets closer, they'll keep us informed on how it's going to play out," he said.
It might mean a few more months of waiting before Hanson gets a chance to prove he has a future in the NHL. After these past few months, though, he'll definitely be ready when that chance comes.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SWernerPG First Published August 9, 2012 11:45 AM