DETROIT – From the moment he was selected in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft, Windsor, Ontario native Steve Ott dreamed of some day wearing a Red Wings sweater.
The 33-year-old agitating forward who has logged nearly 800 games while wearing crests of the Dallas Stars, Buffalo Sabres and St. Louis Blues, will finally get his wish this season.
That’s because Ott and the Red Wings reached an agreement on a one-year contract late Friday afternoon.
“To be honest with you I’ve waited for this moment ever since I was drafted,” Ott said. “I’ve always wanted to be a Detroit Red Wing. It’s my childhood team that I always grew up admiring with the teams and runs that they had with Steve Yzerman and the rest leading the way. It has always been a dream to wear the winged wheel and now that this has all come together this is the most exciting contract I have ever signed.”
Ott was the fourth player signed by the Red Wings on Friday, the first day of the league’s free agency period, joining former New York Islanders teammates Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek, as well as forward Darren Helm, who chose to re-sign with the Wings.
Ott spent much of last season on the injury list, rebounding late in the season from double-hamstring surgery, which was followed by the April news that the rugged forward was diagnosed with colitis.
He missed the last 53 games of the regular season but following his initial treatment for colitis – which is the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon – he managed to play in nine of the Blues’ 20 playoff games.
In 21 regular-season games, Ott had no goals with two assists and a minus-3 rating.
As for the hamstring, Ott said he’s recovered from the fluky injury that could have been worse.
“I went into the boards real awkward,” he said. “Kind of did the splits into the wall and ripped my hamstring right off. I had surgery to reattach it. The big thing with that was time. I had to basically sit around and rehab, rehab, rehab, rehab until I was able to come back for the playoffs. It was long because of the circumstances and not completely healed 100 percent. To be honest with you, I’m ready to put in a big summer like I already have started a while ago as soon as we finished. Being ready this season, 100 percent healthy and being ready to rock and roll was my attitude behind it all. This injury is behind me. I’m ready to kind of continue to push forward and earn that spot and really help this team really any way I possibly can.”
If healthy, Ott should be a nice fit in the Red Wings’ lineup for his agitating style and versatility as someone who can play all three forward spots as a bottom-six contributor.
A former team captain with the Sabres and an assistant for the Stars, Ott will also bring leadership qualities to Detroit’s locker room.
“I play a hard style of game, obviously I try to compete extremely hard and make other compete,” he said. “I’m a depth guy later on in my career but I’m somebody who can play center, take face offs, I’ve always been one of the top guys on our penalty-killing team every single year. You add that with the physicality and I want to help push this group and I want to win with this group. We’ve got a great, young group and when you add two other great key players with Vanek and Nielsen you add those two and I mean, this is a strong team.”
Ott, who still has plenty of family and friends in the area, gives the Wings six players from the immediate region. The Canadian-born Ott said he’s looking forward to getting to know the other five guys, all Michigan natives – Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening, Dylan Larkin, Drew Miller and Danny DeKeyser.
“If you have an opportunity to be able to play in your local market, a lot of us grew up this way, you grow up a fan of all the guys you saw wear the Red Wings jersey before you and the legacy that was created by these unbelievable veterans,” Ott said. “The respect Detroit gets throughout the league, it’s a top-notch Original Six, when you have that presence, it is a true dream as a hockey player, in your local market, to be able to have this opportunity. I don’t know the other guys you mentioned that well yet. I’m sure they feel the same way every time they get the opportunity to put their local jersey on they grew up admiring and seeing those heroes and legends just makes it that much more important to never let that jersey down.”