DETROIT - Like most children born and raised in Michigan, center Dave Legwand grew up a Red Wings fan, idolizing the organization’s legendary players.
“Stevie (Yzerman) for sure, I have his jersey,” Legwand said. “It was an honor to play against him and compete against him. I think every kid growing up here is a Red Wings fan as they should be. The tradition, the history, the players that have been here from the past, they’ve meant a lot to the city and to the team.”
And now they’ll mean even more to Legwand, who will step on the ice at Joe Louis Arena Thursday night proudly wearing the Winged Wheel as the newest member of Detroit’s roster.
“I mean obviously any kid that gets to this level and gets a chance to play at this level wants to play in front of their friends, family in their hometown and do those types of things,” said the Grosse Pointe Woods native. “I had that opportunity. I don’t know if that opportunity would’ve rose again in July or June but it rose and I kind of jumped at the chance.”
The Wings acquired Legwand from the Nashville Predators Wednesday afternoon for right wing Patrick Eaves, minor-league center Calle Jarnkrok, who was playing in Grand Rapids, and a conditional third-round selection in the 2014 NHL draft. The center was originally drafted second overall by the Predators in 1998, and spent his entire NHL career in Nashville.
Although he’s excited to return to southeast Michigan, it wasn’t easy saying goodbye to the place he’s called home for the past 15 years.
“It’s tough,” Legwand said. “Good years and bad years there. Lived through the good and bad times. It was fun and exciting when I was there. It’s good to be part of a new team and exciting for me.”
And there’s no place like home. Legwand is a direct product of Detroit’s youth hockey programs, and spent three years of his childhood skating at The Joe for the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey League before climbing through the ranks of the city’s Compuware programs.
The center still returns to his home in Harrison Township during the offseason, skating and working out with Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser and Todd Bertuzzi throughout the summer months.
Needless to say, it didn’t take much time for Legwand to waive his no trade clause to make Michigan his full-time home for the next six weeks.
“Not long it was pretty much a phone call home and that pretty much took care of it,” Legwand said. “Being somewhere for 15 years is tough, but to come home and have a chance to play in front of friends and family day in and day out it’s exciting.”
And further down the road, it could be a situation that Legwand and his wife and two children enjoy for more than six weeks.
“Obviously you’re from here, you grew up here, they made a trade for you and if it is something long-term it is,” Legwand said. “Obviously we’re going to play the last six weeks out, get in the playoffs and go on a long run hopefully and then everything takes care of itself.”
Currently looking outside in at the playoff picture with 21 games remaining in the regular season, coach Mike Babcock thinks the addition of the healthy veteran center will help his team in more ways than one.
"Obviously, great deal for us that he would come and help us out here just with our centers there with Pav and Z and Weisser and Helmer all out, those are our four centers,” Babcock said. “So, we needed a guy, we needed a veteran guy to help these kids. These kids are real good players, but a little leadership helps. He's got 40 points, can pass the puck, he can play on your power play and he can play against real players, so it'll be a good fit for us.”
Legwand will center a line with Johan Franzen and Gustav Nyquist Thursday when the Wings host Colorado.
“I think it’ll be good,” Legwand said. “Gus is a skater that can make plays. His hockey IQ is huge. Mule’s a big body and can skate. I think everyone has seen him score goals and he gets in those areas to score goals.”
Although the need for points is crucial at this point in the season, Detroit’s new No. 1 center doesn’t feel any pressure as he prepares for his debut with the Wings.
“You just have to go out and play, do the right things and learn how they play as quickly as possible,” Legwand said. “I’ve played a ton against them in the past years. It’ll be good to get started.”
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