DETROIT -- With former grinders like Darren McCarty, Joe Kocur, Tomas Holmstrom, Bob Probert and many others, the Detroit Red Wings are perhaps the most infamous team in NHL history when it comes to maximizing talent from gritty players with something to prove.
And now, Red Wings forward Luke Glendening is hoping to follow in the footsteps of those legendary Wings alumni as he finds his niche in the face-off circle and as a leader in the locker room.
Video: Luke Glendening | End of Season Media Availability
Glendening has played nearly his entire career in the state of Michigan, beginning his hockey journey at East Grand Rapids High School before walking on at the University of Michigan in 2008.
After two years with the maize and blue, Glendening was named team captain for his junior and senior seasons, helping to lead the Wolverines to the national championship game in 2011 and being named CCHA best defensive forward in 2012.
As one of only eight multi-year captains in Michigan hockey history, Glendening continued to grind through the ranks, playing 27 games for the ECHL's Toledo Walleye before joining the Red Wings' AHL-affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins in 2012 and helping the club to a Calder Cup championship with 26 points (8-18-26) in 51 regular season games and 16 points (6-10-16) in 24 postseason contests.
Video: TBL@DET: Glendening banks home goal off McElhinney
He made his Red Wings debut in 2013 and now, after his eighth season in Hockeytown, Glendening has emerged as one of the best face-off men in the NHL and as one the most influential voices in the Wings' dressing room.
"He's a great culture guy because of where his work ethic is," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said about Glendening, who was named one of Detroit's alternate captains in September 2019. "We talk all the time about outworking, out-competing the other team. He embodies that."
Glendening finished last season with 15 points (6-9-15) in 54 games, tied for eighth on the team, and the 32-year-old center took his talents in the face-off circle to the next level, winning 523 of the 859 draws he took for a career-high win percentage of 60.9.
Among NHL players who took at least 600 faceoffs in 2020-21 (57 players), Glendening's win percentage was second-best in the NHL, only trailing Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. Glendening's 523 face-off wins were good for 10th-best in the NHL, but every player above Glendening on that list received at least three minutes more of average ice time per game.
Blashill said Glendening's impact on the ice is immeasurable, as he wreaks havoc in all aspects of the game.
"He's an effective player on the ice, certainly with his face-offs but his defensive play and his ability to win battles, also grinding teams in the O-zone," Blashill said. "We'd all love more offense, but (Glendening's line) create momentum shifts by playing in the O-zone."
Video: DET@NSH: Glendening guides puck past Rinne
True to his nature as a team-first player, Glendening deflected the credit of his success last season to his linemates, Darren Helm and Adam Erne.
"We just tried to bring a work ethic and compete every single night," Glendening said. "Adam had a great year offensively. Helmer and I, not so much. We figured if we could play in the other team's zone, play a physical game, and grind the other team's top line down it would give us a chance to win. We relished that opportunity and did the best we could with it."
Glendening said he's pleased with the progress that Detroit made in 2020-21 and that the club is making big strides in rebuilding back into playoff contention.
"I think we're a lot closer than we were," Glendening said. "For the most part on a night-to-night basis, we were competitive. The year before, we were down by a lot so often, you didn't have the opportunity to feel what it was like to play in those close games, and I thought this year, we did more of that."
The alternate captain's four-year contract is set to expire this summer, meaning Glendening could potentially test free-agency waters for the first time, but the lifelong Michigander said he relishes donning the Winged Wheel and representing Detroit.
"Growing up in Grand Rapids, and then being able to be here my whole career so far, is a dream come true," Glendening said. "I don't know what the future holds, but I love being a Red Wing."
Video: DAL@DET: Glendening redirects Staal's wrist shot in
Glendening said being a member of the Red Wings is a special opportunity and he wants to help return the Red Wings to prominence.
"We'll see what happens here, but every day that I get to put on a Red Wings sweater is a special day to me. I love being part of the organization," Glendening said emphatically. "Wearing the Winged Wheel has been a dream since I first started playing hockey. Every day I come to the rink to and get to put that sweater on, it's a special day for me. I'd love to be part of this moving forward."