If Danny Grant and his wife, Linda, weren’t so home sick after his NHL career ended in the late 1970s the couple likely would have made Milford, Michigan their permanent home.
“That was our biggest decision we ever had. We loved Michigan but we decided to come back to New Brunswick because both of our families are here,” said Grant, in an exclusive interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “Michigan and New Brunswick are a lot alike, except we don’t have a big city like Detroit. We have the outdoors and the fishing and the hunting, the same as Michigan.”
Plain and simple, Michigan wasn’t home, and Grant – to paraphrase a famous TV sitcom – desired to be somewhere that everybody knows his name. Going home also provided an opportunity for the 15-season NHL star to give back to a community that gave him so much as a young boy.
Now, that city, which has produced a handful of NHL talent, will bestow a great honor upon Grant and his good friend, Buster Harvey, this weekend when they unveil the brand new Grant-Harvey Centre with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning. A special celebration and tribute will be held at the new facility on Saturday night.
Harvey, like Grant, grew-up in Fredericton, and also played part of his NHL career with the Red Wings. Harvey, who played two seasons in Detroit, died in 2007. He was 57.
“The fact that my good friend will also have his name included,” Grant said, “is a nice honor for him, too.”
Plans for the $29.35-million facility have been in the works for several years, and the city council originally approved the Grant Centre as way to pay tribute to one of Fredericton’s favorite sons. But Grant approached the city’s mayor and asked that the local government consider adding Harvey’s name to the brick and mortar.
The 45-acre complex is a multi-sport facility that features Olympic-size and NHL-size ice surfaces and will be home to St. Thomas University and Fredericton High School hockey teams. It will also accommodate other ice sports, including figure skating and speed skating, as well as offer an ideal location for trade and home shows.
The grounds include a multi-use artificial turf athletic field, six indoor tennis courts, and a two-acre fenced dog-walking park. The two-level building has a three-lane track on the upper level as well as a community events room, a meeting room and full kitchen.
“We take great pride in the city of Fredericton,” said Grant, 66. “We have a wonderful community and now we’re getting older and we’re stepping out and letting the younger people take over. But I think it’s a way for the city to maybe thank us for taking an interest in the community.”
|Danny Grant scored 19 of his 50 goals on the power play for the Red Wings in the 1974-75 season. (Photo by Getty Images) |
A former Calder Trophy winner as the league’s rookie of the year in 1969, Grant quickly became a fan-favorite at Olympia Stadium when he was acquired from the Minnesota North Stars prior to the 1974-75 season.
Along with center Marcel Dionne and a cavalcade of right wingers, Grant excelled on the Wings’ top scoring line to become the second player in franchise history to break the 50-goal ceiling. He scored twice in an 8-3 home win over Washington on April 2, 1975.
However, a 50-goal scorer is only as good as his centerman, and Grant still recognizes what Dionne meant to him that year.
“Up until that point, I was a consistent 30-goal scorer,” Grant said. “I had played with some good hockey players, but Marcel was special, offensively, so the more opportunities I got the more goals I got, and the next thing you know I had 50.
“If I played 10 years with Marcel I would have come close to reaching 50 goals each season. That’s the type of player he was. He was so good that he was going to give you the opportunity to score goals and if you could score goals – and I was fortunate enough to score goals ever since I was junior – you were going to get two or three good chances a night.”
Despite the team’s struggles in the 70s, Grant was near the top of the hockey world that season, finishing fourth in goals (50) and third in power-play goals (19). Mickey Redmond became the first Wing to reach the mark, doing it in each of the two previous seasons.
As Grant neared the milestone that spring, Redmond offered his advice.
“Mickey sat me down and told me that I had to go for it because that chance may never come again,” Grant said. “And sure enough, 10 games into the next season and I get hurt and that was it. I never really recovered.”
Grant never came close to his offensive production of ’74-75, but he’s thankful for the memories.
“I’m glad I did it,” he said. “It’s something that will always be with me, I was the 12th player in (NHL) history to do it. I was the first left winger to do it with the Red Wings, and when you think of all of the great left wingers that were there like Frank Mahovlich, that’s pretty special.”
Playing in Montreal and helping the Canadiens win the 1968 Stanley Cup was also a dream, albeit too short-lived, said Grant, who was shipped to the expansion North Stars the next season. Had he not been named rookie of the year, he believes he would have been sent back to Montreal. Instead, North Stars general manager Wren Blair petitioned the league to keep the budding star.
“Winning the Calder was probably not the smartest thing I ever did,” Grant said, joking. “See, I was a Canadien at heart ever since I was a kid, and when I went to Minnesota, I went on loan to the North Stars. Montreal didn’t trade me, they loaned me. I would have been back with the Canadiens the next year if I had not won that Calder Trophy.”
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