The second player ever to hoist the Stanley Cup prior to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year, Danny Grant might be the most forgotten of the Red Wings’ five 50-goal scorers in franchise history.
Grant won the Cup as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 1968, but a year later was loaned to the two-year-old North Stars where he led Minnesota in scoring and edging out Oakland Seals winger Norm Ferguson for the league award.
Six years later, the Red Wings acquired Grant in a trade that sent popular forward Henry Boucha to the North Stars. Grant spent the next three seasons, albeit injury-plagued, in Detroit. But it was in his first season with the club that he became just the 12th player in league history to smash the 50-goal glass ceiling.
Debilitating injuries kicked in soon after his milestone season of 1974-75. In his final four seasons – with the Wings then the Los Angeles Kings – Grant totaled 46 goals in 224 games.
Last month, Grant, 67, was honored by the city of Fredericton, New Brunswick, which named a new sports complex after Grant and the late Buster Harvey, who also played for the Red Wings.
Recently, DetroitRedWings.com spoke to Grant in a phone interview, where the former winger talked about his experiences in Detroit, as well as his 50-goal season:
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
Grant: “A little bit with Dennis Hextall. Actually I was down there a couple of years ago and stayed with Dennis and Becky. At one point when we had an American League team here I used to catch a lot of the guys going through that were still involved in the game with scouting or what have you. But now we’re kind of off the beaten path out here, and we’re all at the age now that we all have grandkids and it’s hard to get together.”
Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
Grant: “I have so many that I hate to narrow them down. But the year that I scored the 50 goals was big; still there were a lot of other things. Being named captain of the team, and playing with my old buddy Mickey Redmond. We had some great memories. Wish we were able to win a little more, but another big thing was the fans. After you were there for awhile, you got to know pretty much half of the people in the Olympia. They were down leaning over the glass and talking to you. Those are fond, fond memories of Michigan on and off of the ice.”
Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
Grant: “Dennis Hextall, probably pound-for-pound, was the toughest guy in the NHL. He was an old throwback to the Ted Lindsay-type of player. Dennis wasn’t a big man, but boy he could go with anybody and he wasn’t scared of anything. Then Bryan Watson was tough too. He wasn’t a good fighter like Dennis, but Bryan could take anything that you could dish-out. … Dan Maloney was a good fighter until he hurt his shoulder and then we had another guy who could have been one of the toughest in the NHL – at least he was for a short time – and that was Phil Roberto. But he had that accident with his hand when he severed all of the tendons in his hand the year or so before he came to Detroit.”
Q. Who was the funniest?
Grant: “Bugsy, Bryan Watson. He was hilarious.”
Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
Grant: “It’s probably not even there now. I don’t know that we had a favorite one; we just went to all of them. Our favorite pit-stop on the way home from practice was Joe’s out on the highway there; just little burger and beer place that we always congregated at after practice with the boys. When we were going out to a restaurant there were so many whether you wanted Italian or Polish or whatever it was. We frequented all of them.”
Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?
Grant: “Oh, my, you haven’t got enough time. … Everything has changed, and you can start with what is on everybody’s mind today – money. What these players are getting paid today, if someone had said that 30 years ago everybody would have laughed. Nobody is worth that kind of money, but they are. Besides that player are bigger, and because it is a business today and you have the opportunity to make $10 millions you have coaches for everything from strength coaches to mental coaches, everything. For these young kids coming along today with 30 teams in the league and places in Europe, there’s a place for everyone to play now and still make a good living out of it.”
Q. What is your favorite Red Wings-Maple Leafs memory?
Grant: “That’s when they had Darryl Sittler in Toronto, and I don’t know what it was about Detroit and Toronto. It wasn’t that way with Montreal and Detroit, it wasn’t the same type of rivalry that Toronto and Detroit had. It probably goes back to the Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio days and just carried on to that era.”
Q. What do you love most about the game?
Grant: “I still like to see a good, wide-open, skilled game. It’s getting harder to find with how the game is played now with all of these traps. You don’t see the exciting rushes, the 3-on-2s, the 2-on-1s, because all of the players pull out of the other team’s end and stand at center ice. It’s all chip and grind, cycle and in the corners. All of the teams play the same. If you changed the jerseys you wouldn’t know one team from another. But back in the six-team league Detroit had its style of play and you had the Flying Frenchmen in Montreal, it was altogether a different ballgame.
“It’s still a great game. It’s fast, you know, there’s still a lot of skill there, but there’s only a certain number of players who are supplying it. You can make $2-3 million a year just by being a good checker and scoring five goals.”