To Red Wings’ fans, Brendan Shanahan will always be remembered for winning three Stanley Cup titles and for his penchant for sticking up for his teammates against ardent rivals like the Colorado Avalanche.
But his longer lasting legacy on the league may likely be his influential voice in hockey’s darkest hour.
The mastermind of a two-day conference held during the 2004-05 lockout, Shanahan pulled together players, coaches, broadcasters and other influential hockey types to discuss improvements to the game. The idea was to make the NHL more exciting and entertaining for fans, and in many ways it worked.
Of the 10 recommendations that came out of the summit, the most groundbreaking adaptation was the shootout, meant to settle ties following scoreless overtime periods.
A certain lock for induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Shanahan played nine remarkable seasons with the Red Wings and still holds top 15 franchise rankings in at least eight offensive categories, like No. 3 in game-winning goals (63); No. 4 in shots on goal (2,544); and No. 5 in power-play goals (115).
A fan-favorite among the Wings’ faithful, Shanahan, now the NHL’s vice president of hockey and business development, as well as the league’s head disciplinarian, sat down to talk about his for Wings’ teammates and his time in Detroit.
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
SHANAHAN: “Yeah, actually quite a few, like Kris Draper. I mean, you bump into guys, like Drapes, Steve Yzerman, Marty Lapointe. I mean, probably like a dozen of them.”
Q. Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
SHANAHAN: “Tomas Holmstrom, but every guy I played with. It’s tough to pick. Homer made me laugh, Nick’s a favorite, Pav, Hank, I don’t think I can pick one.’
Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
SHANAHAN: “Probably winning our first Stanley Cup in 1997, here on home ice, sweeping Philadelphia. All the Stanley Cups were great, but when you win your first one, for almost all of us on the team, it was our first one.”
Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
SHANAHAN: “You know, Vladimir Konstantinov, the one year I got to play with him I was amazed at how tough he was. Darren McCarty was obviously very tough. But then there were guys like Nicklas Lidstrom, who didn’t necessarily play physically, but was extremely tough in that he just never missed a game, would not ever get hurt. Steve Yzerman was incredibly tough in how he could play with pain. So, you know, our players showed toughness in whatever form they could bring it.”
Q. Who was the funniest?
SHANAHAN: “Tomas Holmstrom was probably my favorite guy, as far as, you know, if I could understand what he was saying I usually laughed.”
Q. Who had the biggest heart?
SHANAHAN: “Some guys display their heart in a really obvious way for everyone to see, but other guys are more subtle but their heart’s just as big, so again, I don’t think I could pick just one guy.”
Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
SHANAHAN: “I used to like to go to the Townsend Hotel (in Birmingham, Mich.); get a big steak after games.”
Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?
SHANAHAN: “It’s gotten a lot younger.”
Q. Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?
SHANAHAN: “Kirk Maltby and Sergei Fedorov.”
Q. What do you love most about the game?
SHANAHAN: “I just love the intensity and the competition and the passion that you see each and every night, each and every playoff series.”
Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?
SHANAHAN: “Probably my brothers. My brothers never played professionally in hockey, but they played hockey and lacrosse. When I was a little kid, they were instrumental in how I played the game and how I felt about teammates and the team concept. I always thought that they were just great teammates and great winners. I don’t think you have to copy an NHLer or a great hockey player. I copied my older brothers, and they didn’t really play anything beyond the beer league.”
Q. What advice would you give to kids playing today?
SHANAHAN: “Play for the fun of it. Don’t play to become a pro, just play to have fun. Dream about playing in the NHL, but don’t play for that reason. Just play for fun.”