Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes work is hard.
For Kyle Chipchura, even making the fourth line of the Montreal Canadiens on a regular basis is hard.
The Vimy, Alberta native has had only a taste of the NHL in two seasons, including a one-game call-up stint this season, when he filled into the lineup on the fourth line of the Canadiens against the Florida Panthers. Chipchura put in over 11 minutes of ice time and was defensively responsible, as always.
Yet, back down to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs he went. As it is in the NHL, getting there and staying there are two different animals.
But Chipchura is a very hard-working, two-way centre who will be working hard to get back up and stay with the storied Canadiens.
In 36 games in his "rookie" season in 2007-08, Chipchura notched four goals and seven assists before getting sent back to Hamilton where he stayed for the remainder of the season. The reasoning for his demotion was his lack of production in the faceoff circle.
Yet, Chipchura played hard and accumulated 21 points in 39 games with Hamilton. After a Calder Cup championship, in which Chipchura was instrumental with 13 points in 22 playoff games, Hamilton missed the playoffs.
Chipchura has enough honours and recognition to make a good case for being a regular in the Montreal lineup. In 2006, he was named captain of Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, which were hosted in Canada. Chipchura also chipped in with four goals in the entire tournament.
"He's a heart and soul kind of guy and when you have a team that is perhaps lacking some experience at the national level, which obviously we [were], you need a real strong character and real strong person mentally that's totally committed to the way we want to play," commented then Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter after naming Chipchura captain.
"He's probably a huge reflection of myself." added Sutter.
And, of course, Chipchura and Team Canada went on to shut down Evgeni Malkin's Team Russia en route to yet another Gold Medal in Vancouver.
Chipchura's junior numbers aren't as impressive as most, but his two-way play as a centre is something that many teams find attractive. His adaptability to play whatever style of hockey a team has going in its system is a big positive in Chipchura's game and that's why the Canadiens nabbed him 18th overall in the 2004 draft.
After an entire season in Hamilton in 2006-07, Chiphura made the opening roster and played his first NHL game on Oct. 10, 2007. He then netted his first goal 10 days later, against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres, on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
Now, Chipchura's goal is to make the team full-time. The fourth line centre role is only his to lose.
If hard work does pay in real life, then Kyle Chipchura has a chance to play again on the Montreal Canadiens this season.