DETROIT – Andre Pronovost’s fondest Motor City hockey memory occurred nearly 60 years ago. That is until Thursday when his grandson scored his first career goal as an NHL rookie.
Anthony Mantha’s first goal – on the power play at 17:27 of the second period – gave the Red Wings a four-goal cushion against Montreal, the club that his grandfather won four consecutive Stanley Cups with, from 1957 to 1960.
Mantha’s goal eventually stood as the game winner after the Canadiens made a third-period surge that fell short in the Wings’ 4-3 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
Tears welled in Pronovost’s eyes as he tried to capture his grandson’s on-ice goal celebration on a mobile device from his seat in Section 115.
“Every time when he had good years like in juniors when he scored all those goals and last year in Grand Rapids when I’m there he gets points,” Pronovost said, “and I can get emotional every time.”
Before Thursday, Pronovost’s most memorable goal in Detroit ended Game 3 of the 1958 Stanley Cup semifinals, giving the Canadiens a 2-1 overtime win at the Olympia. He played 12 NHL seasons with four different clubs, including Boston, Detroit and the Minnesota North Stars.
“Here in Detroit my big souvenir is that I scored a goal for Montreal in overtime in ’58,” said Pronovost, who played for the Wings from 1962-65. “That was in Detroit and my biggest moment for my hockey life.”
It was after his first of two 50-goal seasons with Val-d’Or in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League that the Red Wings selected the 6-foot-5 Mantha in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft.
A year later, Mantha arrived in Traverse City for the NHL prospects tournament with great fanfare and expectations but a fractured tibia ended his chance of making the Wings’ roster out of training camp.
Suzie Mantha said the setback was difficult for her son to deal with at first but he continued to work toward his goal.
“He was very disappointed,” Suzie said. “He consulted with a sports psychiatrist and he’s very proud to say that he helped him be better and focus on certain things, work harder and finally get the defensive part that was lacking.”
Mantha struggled in his first season with Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League. But in the month prior to his NHL debut, the 21-year-old Mantha was the Griffins’ best player, scoring seven goals in 13 games. He was third in team scoring with 21 goals, 24 assists and a plus-18 rating in 56 AHL games this season.
“We can see that he’s a lot better and with the American League he was reaching his comfort zone,” Suzie said. “I could really see that he was reaching a level that he had with Val-d’Or and I could feel it was there. He’s working well, he’s scoring and he was there. We’re not surprised but very, very happy for him.”
The 79-year-old Pronovost has lived a blessed hockey life, having played with some of the game’s greats like Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe.
“At least I was there with them,” Pronovost said. “Winning four in a row out of juniors was like a dream. Our third line with Claude Provost and Phil Goyette and myself was called the kid line and we just said, ‘Hey, this is a dream but let’s keep it up and keep working with those guys’ it was great.”
It’s a similar message he shares with his grandson now.
“I keep saying to him, ‘Listen, you have to do it, so you do it,’ ” Pronovost said. “Every time he does something good after the game I always say, ‘Don’t forget it, you did it. Keep working.’ ”