Ladd in pursuit of red, white and gold

Making the Canadian Olympic team is the next step in Andrew Ladd’s evolution as a hockey player.

Making the Canadian Olympic team is the next step in Andrew Ladd’s evolution as a hockey player.

Now a bona fide star in the National Hockey League, the pride of the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association was chosen as one of 47 Canadian players to take part in the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey orientation camp, which will be held in Calgary later this summer.

“It was exciting, for sure,” Ladd said in a phone interview Thursday while vacationing in Summerland.

“Any time your name is thrown in the hat with that group of players, it’s exciting.”

He should know – he played with a star-studded Canadian junior team that won gold at the world championships. Sidney Crosby, Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Brent Seabrook were all part of that team.

While most of those Team Canada teammates hopped a fast elevator to NHL stardom, the Ridge kid climbed the ladder – the shot-blocking, check-finishing, eye-blackening ladder. When he’s done, his high school friends from Maple Ridge won’t recognize his nose.

He won the Stanley Cup for the first time with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, contributing five points in 17 playoff games.

In 2008, however, he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, reuniting with former spring teammates from the Pacific Vipers – Troy Brouwer, Brent Seabrook and Colin Fraser.

Ladd was a valued member of the ‘Hawks Stanley Cup champion team in 2010, but again found himself on the move. Salary restrictions meant the talent-laden ’Hawks had to give up some players. In the 2010 off-season, he was moved to retooling Atlanta Thrashers.

He has never looked back. Ladd has since been recognized as one of the great two-way forwards in the game. In the past three years he has put up 29, 28 and 18 goals (the latter in 48 games).

Early in the 2010-2011 season, he was named the captain of the Thrashers, and remains in that role since they moved to Winnipeg to become the Jets.

In the summer of 2011, he signed a five-year deal worth $22 million.

So what’s left to accomplish?

Playing for Team Canada in the Olympics would be the pinnacle.

Ladd has represented Canada at the World Championships three times, but at that tournament many of the elite players are still involved in the NHL playoffs.

“The Olympics is all the best from every country,” Ladd said.

On a team that will include some of the best hockey players on the planet, Ladd would be willing to play any role.

“As a player, you see where you fit in. I can move up and down the lines, and play different roles,” he said, noting that he has been an energy player early in his career, and now is expected to provide some offence.

“Hopefully that could work to my advantage,” he said. “I would be happy to be on the team in any capacity.”

The new opportunity doesn’t change his approach. He’s working hard in the off-season, as always.

“There’s no real down time for us as hockey players nowadays.”

He’s training with former ’Hawks teammate Duncan Keith and former Canuck Cam Barker – who was also part of that 2005 World Junior squad. It’s all dryland now, but next week they will hit the ice.

He wants to get off to a good start in the NHL season, personally, and says helping to bring the Jets success can only further his cause.

Ladd also has a new boy, Locklan, who is six months old. So he doesn’t get to sit still for long.

Ladd visited Maple Ridge early in the summer, and with all of his family still here, he will be back for a visit before a new NHL campaign begins.

The Team Canada camp will take place Aug. 25 to 28 in Calgary.