Stepping in front of a packed house at Comerica Park, I found that what was true then still held true that day. The faces may have changed, but when I waved to the crowd, it felt as familiar as if I were back at Olympia Stadium. I'm lucky for that. I'm lucky in a lot of ways. I was fortunate enough to play professional hockey for thirty-two years. If you'd asked me when I broke into the league if I thought I'd still be playing five decades later, I would have said you were crazy. When the Red Wings called me up from their farm club in Omaha in , I just wanted to last the season.
From then on, if the team decided to bring me back for another year, I wasn't going to complain. From the time I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was play hockey. Even at the end of my career, when I was the only guy in the dressing room with grandkids, strapping on my pads every day still felt as normal as ever.
The air turning chilly in the fall was like nature's way of telling me to put on my skates and get back to work. I ended up watching a lot of the world go by while on the ice. In between, I saw seven American presidents pass through office and even had a chance to meet some of them. It was a good long run by nearly any measure. When I hung up my skates for the first time in , he'd already been in the Hall of Fame for a decade. In Detroit, we had front-row seats for the birth of Motown. I moved there during the city's boomtown years, when Michigan was the center of the U.
On the ice, the Red Wings piled up four Stanley Cup victories, and we probably should have won a few more. I managed to put the puck in the net times in my professional career, while setting up scores for teammates on more than other occasions. Away from the arena, I was lucky enough to meet my beautiful wife, Colleen, and together we raised four wonderful children. I like to think that I'm a family man first and a professional athlete second.
With that said, though, I also know that I have hockey to thank for so many of the good things that have happened to me over the years. The game has blessed me with a lifetime of memories. I've had a chance to share some of them before, but I've never taken the time to tell my whole story in one place.
It's humbling to think that a shy kid from Saskatoon could write a book that anyone would want to read. As with so many things in my life, I'm grateful--and still somewhat amazed--to be given the opportunity. I wasn't the player then that I was during the glory years in Detroit, but how many fathers get the chance to play professional hockey with their kids? It's what brought back the fun and excitement of my youth and kept me going into my fifties.
Standing rinkside at the Winter Classic watching Mark--who's best remembered as a Flyer, but ended his career in Detroit--take the ice for the Red Wings, it was easy for me to recall our years playing together in the World Hockey Association. Now retired for nearly twenty years and nursing a couple of bad disks in his back, I thought Mark still looked as smooth as ever on the ice. The countless laps he put in skating around the rink as a kid were clearly enough to last him a lifetime.
Hockey Stories On and Off the Ice book. Read 3 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Professional hockey is the perfect melding of team. NHL star Wayne Simmonds writes about breaking into the league — and supporting young hockey players from the Scarborough community.
The alumni game, as exhibition matches often do, started slowly. Time away from the ice combined with a windy day and below-freezing temperatures had everyone more concerned about staying warm and healthy than trying to make a big play.
Both squads were filled with players who knew each other well. Everyone was happy to laugh with old teammates and share a smile with former rivals--at least at the start of the game. Compared to my era, NHL hockey has evolved in ways that are both good and bad. When I watched the alumni game, it was comforting to see that at least one thing hasn't changed: The will to win never goes away. The boys on the ice may have lost a few steps, but once they'd warmed up, they couldn't help themselves. It didn't matter how long they'd been retired, who they were playing, or where the game was being held--no one wanted to lose.
At one point, Tiger Williams even started chirping at Chris Chelios for celebrating a goal with a little too much gusto. He wasn't kidding, either. I might have some quibbles with the way the game is played today, but at its core, I know that hockey will always be hockey no matter what year the calendar reads. Today's brand of NHL hockey is still exciting, but if I had my way I'd like to see more creativity come back into the game.
When I played, there were more opportunities to carry the puck, but you don't see that as much anymore. As the game has evolved, the schemes have become more sophisticated. My old coach Tommy Ivan used to say there were only two moves you needed to know in order to play defense: either you knock the puck away from the man or you knock the man off the puck.
It worked for us in the s, but the game has changed a lot since then and, unfortunately, not all for the better. I don't need to rehash criticisms of the neutral zone trap and other systems used to slow down talented players, except to say that they've choked some of the excitement from the game.
These days, offenses are often reduced to dumping the puck into the other team's zone or chipping it off the boards. There's not enough room for players to generate speed through the neutral zone and make a play. This isn't to say that the game isn't good; far from it. The NHL used to be limited to Canadian and American players, but now it includes the best players from around the world. I thought about that at the alumni game while watching Mark take a shift with Slava Fetisov, his old defense partner.
Bottom line. View the discussion thread. We called it "trailing. The RyJo rumor was his health issues the summer before we traded him was because of coke use. A quirky and often funny story that will have you laughing and rooting for the main characters to the very last page. Also, Jack Johnson getting screwed out of all his money by his family. It was pretty crude but it must have worked.
Seeing Russians and Europeans in the NHL is commonplace now, but it still feels relatively new to players of my generation. It's made the game better. When I'm asked to compare players from different eras, my answer is always the same. I'm convinced that great players would fare well no matter when they played. If Sidney Crosby had been around in the s, he'd have been as good then as he is now. As for Gordie Howe? Well, my sons figure I'd do well in today's game provided I could figure out how to stay on the ice. I was fortunate enough to win a number of awards during my career, but the Lady Byng Trophy wasn't one of them.
That wasn't an accident. To my way of thinking, the two most important things you need to survive in pro hockey are time and space. I found that a surefire way to earn a wider berth the next time I came around was to give someone a good crack. If his teammates took away a message as well, then so much the better. I'm aware that not everyone approved of how I played, but I don't think any apologies are in order. Early in my career I decided that it was worth it to do whatever was necessary to earn the extra split second it takes to make a pass or shoot the puck.
The way I saw it, everyone in the league was getting paid to do a job. Mine was to help my team win games. There were lines I wouldn't cross, but as long as I did everything in my power up to that point, I didn't have any problem sleeping at night. These days, officials might see things differently. Back then, we had more leeway to police ourselves, and I think the game was more civilized as a result. Everyone knew the rules, both written and unwritten, as well as the consequences for breaking them.
It bred a lot of respect into the game. The referees still blew their whistles, but the play wasn't stopped as often as it is now.
Of course, today's game also has its advantages. In my day, there was too much hooking and holding by players who couldn't keep up. It was terrible. The league has done a good job of cutting down on much of that nonsense.
I enjoyed the style of hockey played in my era, but I suppose there will always be trade-offs no matter when you play. Since retiring, I'm sometimes asked how I managed to play into my fifties. My answer is simple: I loved playing the game. That's all there is to it.
It's the one thing I have in common with every great player I've ever known. I remember being at a banquet in Brampton in the early s and meeting an eleven-year-old Wayne Gretzky, who was already making a name for himself by that point.
When I shook his hand, I saw a look in his eye that I recognized straight away. Years later, I wasn't the least surprised when his name started going into the record books.
If I learned one thing by playing professional hockey for thirty-two years, it's that you have to love what you do. And that's not just true for sports. Not long ago, I was talking to our son Murray, who's a doctor, and told him the same thing. If a day comes when he wakes up and doesn't love medicine, then he'll know it's time to hang up his lab coat and do something else.