Chris Higgins wants to have fun playing hockey again.
The veteran of 703 games over parts of 12 NHL seasons is currently with the Utica Comets looking to find his game.
The 32-year-old is back in the American Hockey League for the first time in over 11 years after going unclaimed on waivers earlier this month.
Higgins made his Comets debut over the weekend registering one assist and a minus-3 rating in a pair of losses the Toronto Marlies.
“It’s fun,” said Higgins of his first AHL games since October 2004. “The amount of ice time I’m getting is… you know you’re hopping over the boards every couple minutes so it’s pretty enjoyable.”
He began the 2015-16 season with the Canucks on a rough note after suffering a bone fracture in his foot during a preseason game. The injury forced Higgins to miss the first month of the season – his game suffered as a result.
In 25 games with the Canucks, Higgins registered two goals and an assist to go along with a minus-12 rating. His ice time dwindled as well. Higgins who has averaged 16:41 a night in ice time during parts of six seasons with the Canucks, was averaging 14:03 a night prior to being placed on waivers on Jan. 12.
“I like him. I like what I see,” said Comets coach Travis Green. “You can see he’s a good player. I think he’s going to get better as he goes too.”
With the Comets, Higgins saw time on the club’s penalty kill and power play while playing even strength minutes on a line with Alex Friesen and Brandon Marino.
“He’s playing a lot of minutes now, it’s a different game in the AHL than the NHL so it’ll be a bit of a transition and I expect him to get better as he goes a long out,” Green said. “I think the biggest thing is just he’s got to keep his passion, he’s got to be excited to play and everything else will take care of itself.”
While his first goal is to work his way back to the NHL, the Smithtown, NY native is also trying to have fun playing hockey again – something he hasn’t done for some time.
“It was just a tough situation last couple of years for me in Vancouver and I just got to try and enjoy the game again,” Higgins said. “This year was a little tough missing training camp and having a poor start to the year. It’s tough to catch up.”
Despite passing 29 other clubs on waivers prior to being assigned to Utica on Jan. 13, Higgins has no intentions of retiring anytime soon.
“I think it’s more to do with my contract than what type of player I am,” said Higgins, who is owed $2.5 million for next season. “I think I’m still an NHL player so I’m looking to prove that while I’m down here.”