David Legwand won’t be hard to miss when he’s on the ice. He never has been. As usual, he’ll be the guy behind the net taking abuse, killing penalties, doggedly back-checking the opposition’s top forwards and constantly battling in front of the goal for his new team, the Detroit Red Wings.
Considering his new team is the same team he grew up cheering for, he’ll also likely be the guy wearing a wide smile and leaving everything on the line. After 14 years with the once-rival Nashville Predators, Legwand is coming home to Michigan, where his new team was incidentally his favorite team growing up.
After growing up in Grosse Pointe, Legwand played locally for the Plymouth Whalers until he was selected in the NHL Draft by Nashville, a team that was just entering into the league. Legwand was charged with being the star and the face of that franchise when the team had very little, which helped him break his longtime allegiance to the Red Wings. As the years went along, the Predators built up their talent base and Legwand became a solid veteran leader. Lately, he’s been a role player
Now, coming to Detroit in their greatest hour of need, Legwand will be counted on to apply all of those lessons he learned. In the short term, he’ll be counted on to be one of the Red Wings’ stars. They’ll also need him to provide leadership to a team with plenty of flux and score the type of goals and make the type of plays a role player usually does.
Ironically, while in Nashville, Legwand competed against Nicklas Lidstrom forever and helped finish the captain’s career in the 2012 playoffs. At the time, he admitted he didn’t want to see Lidstrom, one of the game’s best, hang up the skates at all. Now, Legwand’s important Detroit debut will come on the night Lidstrom gets his jersey raised to the rafters. It will be an emotional experience to be sure.
Legwand will almost certainly be playing in front of plenty of family and friends as he fulfills a lifelong dream. It’s exactly the kind of moment which makes sports special. Often times, homecomings can feel forced or be overrated (think Chris Webber signing with the Detroit Pistons in 2008), but not if they’re at the right time and place organizationally. The backdrop of Lidstrom’s jersey retirement along with the current situation makes this a perfect story for Legwand.
If Legwand manages to pull the team up, imagine what the headlines might look like. “Local man saves hockey team, preserves playoff streak!” For Legwand, a proud player, there would likely be no greater honor than helping play make a difference, large or small, in keeping a very proud franchise streak alive.
The fact that this homecoming will also come on Lidstrom’s big night is almost symbolic. A familiar face will be back in town to be made immortal, while another familiar face finally gets to join the team he’s admired forever and help celebrate a man he competed against.
Some fairy-tales don’t start as good.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax