By the time Mike Knuble turned 26, he already played for legendary hockey coaches on three different levels, and won high school, college and NHL championships, at East Kentwood (Mich.) High School, the University of Michigan, and the Red Wings.
Not a bad resume for a young player as he reached his professional prime.
Relatively speaking, Knuble’s collective hockey time in the state of Michigan was short-lived compared to the rest of his NHL career. Besides the Wings, who selected him in the fourth round of the 1991 NHL draft, Knuble has also played for the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
But it was his formative years in the Great Lakes State that paved the way for Knuble. He first learned under the tutelage of Ron Baum – who holds the state’s all-time coaching record for high school victories – then with coach Red Berenson where he helped the Wolverines win three CCHA titles on four years. Knuble then played 53 games for the Scotty Bowman led Wings during the 1997-98 season, and got his name on the Stanley Cup after Detroit swept the Captials.
Though the Wings traded Knuble to the Rangers prior to the start of the 1998-99 season, he has had a solid career, producing 274 goals for 540 points in 15 NHL seasons. He’s also among just a dozen Wings’ draft picks to eventually reach the 1,000 games-played plateau.
Last season, Knuble spoke to DetroitRedWings.com about his time with the Red Wings, his favorite Detroit restaurant and his memorable NHL debut in 1997.
QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
KNUBLE: “No, not really. It was such a long time ago. There are a few guys still here, but I’ve kind of moved on.”
Q. Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
KNUBLE: “I’ll say Justin Abdelkader, because he’s from my area of western Michigan.”
Q. What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
KNUBLE: “Probably my first game, it was against Colorado with the big brawl and it’s a game that everybody remembers. It’s an easy one to bring up, even with people who have no connection to Detroit; they remember that game.”
Q. Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
KNUBLE: “Joe Kocur. He was just so well-respected in the league, and he was just a force when he was doing his job. It was just amazing to watch.”
Q. Who was the funniest?
KNUBLE: “Jamie Pushor, a young guy who was coming up like I was. He was a funny dude.”
Q. Who had the biggest heart?
KNUBLE: “You remember a guy like Darren McCarty. He played with a lot of passion and would do anything to win.”
Q. What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
KNUBLE: “We used to eat some pretty good pre-game meals at Roma Café. We used to eat there a lot.”
Q. How has the NHL changed since you played?
KNUBLE: “It’s a young guys’ game now. When you came in you where the minority as a young player; there were a lot of veteran guys, it seems, on a lot of the teams. Seems to be a young guys game now and you have to skate. You really have to skate a lot now.”
Q. Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played in Detroit?
KNUBLE: “Everybody. But I would say Colorado, because we always were butting heads. Those were great hockey games.”
Q. Who did you sit next to in the Red Wings’ dressing room?
KNUBLE: “I think it was Darren McCarty and Kris Draper. I don’t really remember, because there was always media around.”
Q. What do you love most about the game?
KNUBLE: “It’s been a very rewarding career, and you get to do something that you enjoy to do. … I don’t think you can ask for anything more.”
Q. Who had the greatest influence on your career?
KNUBLE: “It’s probably my younger brother, Steve. He’s my biggest critic and my best fan all at the same time. He’s always one to tell me the way that it is. He doesn’t sugarcoat things when things are going bad, and tells me when I do well.”
Q. What advice would you give to kids playing today?
KNUBLE: “Just have fun and enjoy the game. Love what you’re doing, and you never know, it might take you to some great places, and give you a great career.”
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