DETROIT – If Anthony Mantha thought he was nervous in his NHL debut last week, the tension will be ratcheted tonight when the Red Wings’ rookie makes his home debut with his grandfather in the crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
The game also carries special significance for Mantha because it’s against the Canadiens, the team he cheered for as a boy growing up outside of Montreal.
“Obviously getting four games in helped me out for my confidence, just to get used to the caliber up here, get used to playing my game and getting used to playing this new system,” Mantha said. “So tonight is just exciting and can’t wait to get on the ice.”
Mantha said 15 friends and family member, including his grandfather, Andre Pronovost, made the trip to Detroit for tonight’s game. Pronovost, now 79 years old, played 12 NHL seasons with the Montreal, Boston, Detroit and the Minnesota North Stars.
“We’re all pretty excited,” Mantha said Thursday morning. “Obviously it’s a big road trip for them. They wanted to come up for the first home game and it’s just gonna be a great night.”
Mantha’s grandpa won Stanley Cup rings in his first four seasons in the league with the Canadiens’ dynasty of the late 1950s and ‘60s. It’s an achievement that isn’t lost on the 21-year-old prospect.
“For me, just following in his foot steps and trying to accomplish as much as he did by winning four Stanley Cups,” Mantha said.
Pronovost, no relation to the other famous Pronovosts who played in the league in the ‘50s and ‘60s, played with some of the greats of his generation, but most of the stories he has shred over time with his grandson revolved around many of the Canadiens.
“He talked a little bit more of Maurice Richard only because he played with him and he’s a big legend, obviously Jean Beliveau because he’s French also,” Mantha said. “I think his experiences he talked more to me about when he was in Montreal but I think it all comes down to the same thing, whether you’re in Montreal or over here, he just shares his experiences and it obviously helps me out.”
The Wings acquired Pronovost from the Bruins in exchange for Forbes Kennedy during the 1962-63 season. Four and a half years later, Pronovost was claimed by the North Stars in the 1967 expansion draft.
Wings legend Ted Lindsay played against Pronovost, and said he was the prototypical Montreal player of his time. “Like all the Frenchmen, he could skate, he could shoot, he just loved the game,” Lindsay recalled.
A much bigger player than his grandpa, the 6-foot-5 Mantha says he relishes the advice he receives from the family patriarch.
“I talk to him probably a few times a month or every week or so,” Mantha said. “So it’s pretty fun for him to be here right now and I’m just pretty happy that all my family came down.”
With his ancestral line, Mantha should have plenty to play for tonight.
“He’s got a number of reasons to put in the extra effort because grandpa played, grandpa will be watching,” Lindsay said. “That should be enough motivation for a young guy.”