RALEIGH, N.C. — Czech Republic native Michal Jordan woke up on Valentine’s Day in a hotel room in Illinois, prepared to skate for the Charlotte Checkers against the Chicago Wolves in an AHL Western Conference tilt. While the defenseman would go on to play a hockey game that night, it wouldn’t be in the minors — instead, he would travel more than 600 miles to make his NHL debut.
Jordan, 22, was recalled by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday due to the recent injuries to Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, which left the team with just five healthy D-men. Even though he couldn’t fully wrap his head around the idea of playing in the best league in the world, Jordan’s ultimate goal had finally been reached.
“It was one of those days you dream of as a kid,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
The day, while exciting, was a hectic one for Jordan. When news broke that Gleason would miss the morning skate, it became clear that someone from the Checkers would make the trek down to Raleigh for Thursday’s contest. While the short notice wasn’t an ideal situation for Jordan nor the Canes, the young blueliner believes it made the experience that much more memorable.
“The whole day was just a little bit crazy,” he said. “By the time we got the news in Chicago, I just hop on a plane, shower and get ready for the game.”
It was a lot to take in at once, and as expected, a lot was running through his mind in the hours leading up to the opening face-off.
“When I was on the plane I still couldn’t believe it was happening or no,” he said. “When I got here, all the guys and coaching staff were great. They welcomed me greatly and we got a big win tonight.”
Jordan logged 12:18 minutes of ice time — all at even strength — and looked comfortable out there from start to finish. He was responsible in his own end of the rink, didn’t make any significant mental errors, and even created an offensive chance in the third period with a nice shot from the point.
Prior to puck drop, assistant coach Dave Lewis told the rookie to just have fun out there — and that he did.
“I enjoyed every second tonight,” Jordan said. “When I was standing for the national anthems I was standing around and trying to enjoy all the time I had today.”
A former fourth round pick, Jordan has spent the past three years with Charlotte, totaling 14 goals and 41 assists in 191 AHL contests. The 6′ 1” rearguard has steadily progressed in his time with the Checkers, earning his first AHL All-Star invitation this winter.
Given Jordan’s marked improvements since being drafted in 2008, the organization has developed faith in his ability to succeed at the next level. This led to the decision to promote him, rather than bringing up a more experienced player (like Marc-Andre Gragnani).
“Jordan played really well,” Kirk Muller said. “That’s a big step — your first game up at this level coming from the minors, making adjustment to the speed. Toronto’s got quick forwards, and he jumped in and played well.”
Said goaltender Dan Ellis: “We had two big losses on D with Gleason and (Pitkanen) out, and the fact that we’re able to play just as structured of a game with the new guys in as we did with them out — it speaks volumes for our team.”
Jordan was aided in his first NHL stint by having several former teammates by his side from Charlotte: Justin Faulk, Bobby Sanguinetti and Ellis.
“When you know some guys here from before it’s always quicker adjustment,” he said. “They were great to me, Faulker, Bobby, all the guys.
“It was just fun to be part of. Everyone worked hard, Ellis worked hard for us, and it was a great win.”
Andrew Hirsh is a credentialed NHL writer based in North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewhirsh or email him at email@example.com.