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Taking Flight - Powering Forward

Making my NHL debut pales in comparison to what's happening with COVID-19

by Givani Smith / Special to DetroitRedWings.com

Right wing Givani Smith was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Toronto native is one of four Red Wings prospects writing for our Taking Flight blog series, which chronicles the players' ups and downs as they work their way to becoming Red Wings. Smith is in his second professional season and has split time between playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate, and the Red Wings. Here is his ninth entry of 'Powering Forward.'

 

  • Powering Forward - Entry 9


    by Givani Smith

As an athlete you're so used to routines. Everything is on a schedule. Even your free time is scheduled. However, after these past 10 days or so, it's difficult for me to figure out what is next.

With the coronavirus gripping society, trying to describe everything that's been going on this year, it's really hard to put it into words. From me playing some NHL games, then coming back down here to potentially get ready for a playoff run with Grand Rapids and then having the season be put on pause is kind of weird, because obviously it's the first time something like this has ever happened and knowing how serious this virus is, you just don't know what's going to go on for the rest of the year.

When the AHL decided to pause the season, it wasn't really a surprise. We saw the news after our game against Iowa, we won that game and then after the game, we saw how serious the NBA was taking this whole coronavirus and the day after that, the next morning at the rink, we had a meeting and it was pretty much saying that the AHL is going to follow suit with the NHL and if they decide to suspend the league and take matters into their own hands with this coronavirus, we're going to do the same thing. Since the pause, most of the time I have been waiting like everybody else to see what's next.

Not playing has given me the chance to recharge and refocus, especially my body, but mentally too, just re-heal and recharge for the next couple days or weeks, however long this is going to be, just allow my body to reset. I took a couple of days to relax, but I'm working out already by myself, just trying to stay in shape and get a sweat going. Since the AHL is allowing players to go home, I'm going to go back to Toronto and I will be taking precautions. I have always tried to take care of myself. Especially now, I'm washing my hands after I do anything outside of my house, but for the most part, just staying safe, not going places where there's big crowds. I'm just trying to be smart about the virus.

A lot of fans ask me if there's a drop-dead date where the leagues will be forced to cancel the rest of the season, I don't know. That's a tough question. It's a sticky one. If it takes two months, two and a half months before they have a cure and contain the virus, then obviously the NHL and the AHL will go back to playing. But is it beneficial for us to start that late in the summertime and maybe delay the start of the season next October? Who knows? I'm sure they're going to make a good decision for us.

I would love to be playing as soon as possible. At the same time, this is a pandemic going on in the world. Until they figure this out, it's obviously going to be on your mind, I think about it every day. It's terrible timing for this to happen right now, when we're about to hit playoffs. But given the situation, I really don't have too much to complain about it.

In my last blog entry, I wrote about knowing the Red Wings would eventually send me back to the Griffins. Before I got sent down, I talked with Blash (Jeff Blashill) and it was all positive talk. I think we both get along pretty well, I know we get along pretty well. We respect each other. Basically just what he was saying was keep growing as a player because I'm going to be here one day, I'm going to be there soon and just keep getting better every day. That's what he said to me.

The Red Wings drafted me because I play a certain style of game and that's the game they want to see. Going into this whole thing, I'm a power forward that finishes my checks and I play tough, I play strong, and I knew my role going on the team, what it was to be, getting pucks deep and playing a simple game. As I was playing on different lines in Detroit, experimenting with different things, trying to do different things, it's all part of the game. You either grow with the game or you get lost in the game. I'm just trying to keep growing and be the best player that I can be.

Before I even got called up, I was playing with a lot of confidence. In the prospect tournament to main camp to our exhibition games and to Grand Rapids, regular season games, I was playing confident all year. And for me going up another level, I felt confident in myself and I just wanted to go out there and do my best, do the best I can. So, when I knew I was coming back down from the NHL, it was added confidence right away, especially leaving, saying bye to the guys, coming back to my old friends here, my teammates here, we knew what the goal was. Now I'm back, we have our full team back now, we're trying to make the playoffs and have a really strong run in the playoffs. I want to be a big part of the playoff run, big part of this team, so it's a feeling inside of me that I'm striving, me being sent down to try to get back up.

Yet it was nice to come back. It's a completely different vibe being with the Griffins guys than being with the Red Wings guys. Like down in Grand Rapids, it's my home here. To come back, it felt very nice. Then just skating on the ice again, it felt really nice just to be back home almost in a sense. As I said, we have our full team back now. But the virus put the league on pause. But our goals are still within reach. We're trying to win, we're trying to stay in the playoffs, have a good run in the playoffs. NHL teams, Steve (Yzerman), the Red Wings, need winners.

When you reach a goal, you set new goals. I want to make the Red Wings out of camp next season, but with COVID-19, things have been pushed back a little bit, but I'll be ready when the time comes. Once the offseason hits, that's when I start my summer training. I always look forward to my summer training. No worries about that. My plan is full, and what I'm going to do, if I'm going to be back in Detroit for the whole summer or in Toronto. It's looking like I'll spend some months in Detroit like I did in previous summers. Like all of us, I am just looking forward to getting back into a normal routine.

In closing, I want to say thank you to all the fans that follow along and read the blog. Stay safe in these troubled times, wash your hands a lot, try to limit being in big crowds of people, be really cautious who you interact every day with and keep yourselves safe from this virus. We're all in this together and together we'll get through this pandemic.

 

Smith has played 37 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins thus far. He has nine goals, 10 assists, is minus-6 and has been assessed 75 penalty minutes.

In 21 games this season for the Red Wings, Smith has two goals, one assist, is minus-2 and has been assessed nine penalty minutes.

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