– After a try-out with the Phoenix Coyotes didn’t go as well as he would have liked last September, former Red Wings enforcer Aaron Downey is determined more than ever for another shot at an NHL roster.
“I took a year off for a reason,” said Downey, in an interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “I trained the whole year. I worked on my conditioning. I worked on my body. I worked on my joints. Just the areas that needed work on, and I worked on my mental state.”
Downey played 56 games during the Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup season, and he recently asked Wings general manager Ken Holland for a tryout when the team reports to Traverse City for training camp in September.
“I approached them, just like I called them the year that we won the Cup,” said Downey, who earned a one-year contract in 2007 after winning over the coaching staff in training camp.
“I still skated and I can still handle the puck,” he said. “I always thought that I would comeback, but I needed to rebuild the body and get ahead of everybody in the physical fitness department.”
Downey, 35, signed again with the Wings in 2008-09, though he was assigned to Grand Rapids for much of the season. Last season, the Red Wings went in a different direction, signing another veteran enforcer, Brad May, to a one-year deal.
In 2007-08, Downey collected single-season career-highs for games played and penalty-minutes (116). He also collected 10 fighting majors that season, with perhaps the most-memorable being his retaliatory bout with Ian Laperriere for the cheap hit that the Colorado forward had on Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom
A nine-year NHL veteran, Downey was well-liked by his Wings’ teammates, came to their defense on the ice, and was a positive influence in the locker room. The feeling, Downey said, is mutual.
“I went into the Phoenix camp and I thought that I could do it, but I couldn’t give it my all,” he said. “I just didn’t have that natural energy. … I felt that I left my heart in Detroit.
“I established so many wonderful relationships and winning the Cup, and just seeing how Detroit runs their organization. It’s just first class and there’s a reason why it says, “Family” on those Stanley Cup rings, because it’s run like a family.”
Following his failed tryout with the Coyotes, Downey stayed in Arizona, where he has trained for the last 10 months.
“Now I feel really good about myself,” he said. “I’m just coming there – like I did in ’07 and ’08 – with a better attitude, a lucky-to-be-alive attitude. I really want to come in there, shut my mouth and just do what I do. I want to show them that I’ve developed. And just because I took a year off doesn’t mean that I can’t handle a puck. I think I can handle it better now. … I’m in a better state of mind.”
Downey said that he expects to return to Detroit in early September to take advance of the per-camp training sessions at Joe Louis Arena.
“I’m really excited about coming back there,” he said, “and for some reason it just seems right.”