Just as he has always done, Michael Laidley is prepared to beat the odds.
Despite seeing his first stint in professional hockey cut short at just four games, the 25 year-old native of Little Current is determined to give it another crack.
Doubters beware: undrafted at the OHL level before compiling 73 points in his final two years while serving as either associate captain or captain of the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves (2011-2013), Laidley would go on to earn a scholarship with the St Lawrence Saints of the NCAA.
Five years later, overcoming a knee injury that would cost the smooth skating forward almost a year and a half of hockey, Laidley was once again wearing the "C" in his final year in Canton, New York.
So no one should have been surprised when the 5'11" 195 pound prospect would recently crack the lineup of the Pensacola Ice Flyers of the SPHL (Southern Professional Hockey League).
"I remember playing with the Sudbury Minor Hockey teams, going to tournaments in Toronto and facing all of the skilled teams down there," said Laidley, driving back home on the weekend, undeterred, intent on trying again in the fall.
"We were always the underdog, trying to prove people wrong. I think that's kind of where I am at right now. I have a belief in myself that I can play, if given the opportunity."
Laidley has certainly done it before.
A decent scorer in the minor midget AAA ranks - Laidley registered 13 goals and 22 assists in 27 games with the Sudbury Minor Midget AAA Wolves in 2010-2011 - the Business and Economics major at St Lawrence carved out a niche in the game from a relatively early age.
"I am not the most skilled guy, for sure," he said. "I wasn't going to be the guy who was scoring all of the big goals and stuff. I knew that, even playing minor hockey. For me, it was a matter of focusing on the defensive side of the game, being reliable in your own zone, doing the little things right."
"I kind of learned that from an early stage that I wasn't going to be the guy who put up the numbers that a lot of people did."
From 2015 to 2020, Laidley would suit up in 115 games in the ECAC, netting 13 goals and adding 18 assists. Yet it was the tireless northern Ontario lad who would be leading St Lawrence by example, earning the late game confidence of his coaches on teams that would include future NHLer Gavin Bayreuther.
From the moment he stepped foot on campus, Laidley knew that he had his work cut out for him.
"When you think of NCAA hockey and the big, flashy universities, you think of their facilities," noted Laidley. "Going to St Lawrence and having that first tour on campus kind of reminded me of home, honestly."
"There is a blue collar mentality that they have. They're not the biggest school, not with all of the bells and whistles of the bigger schools. I actually gravitated towards that a lot, sort of that small town feel around campus."
"It's almost like they had that sort of underdog mentality, trying to prove something every night, just like me."
His reputation as a character player firmly established, Laidley would parlay one of his many contacts into his opportunity in Florida.
"I had a roomate at St Lawrence who had a full year there last year, so there was that connection, knowing that he was on the team and getting to know a little about the city, about the league," he said.
"It was nice to know what I was walking into."
Given the state of hockey, in general, in North America, Laidley is determined to remain philosophical. Like every hockey experience in his life, the driven young man will now draw upon his stay in the Sunshine State.
"I don't like to give myself a deadline; pro hockey opened my eyes to that," said Laidley. "There were guys that were 31, 32 years old and still loving the game, and still being paid to play hockey."
"You might as well play as long as you can, right."
And convert a few extra believers, along the way as well.