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White, family settling in with Wings

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROITIan White’s story isn’t much different than every other Canadian kid who has dreamt of playing in the NHL.

He grew-up in a sleepy little town where he played hockey on a backyard rink built by his father. He attended school in his quiet town, and as he puts it, “stayed out of trouble.”

However, life in pro hockey the last few years hasn’t always been so quiet for the Red Wings’ defenseman, who is with his fifth NHL club. Drafted by Toronto in 2002, White bounced around from Calgary to Carolina and to San Jose, before signing a two-year contract with the Wings last July.

There was even a time in 2008-09 that White only cracked the lineup as a forward on a team that last made the playoff in 2004.

“They scratched me the first 11 games of the season,” said White, of the Maple Leafs. “Then they told me that I was going to play forward, and I never played forward in my live. So it was a bit strange, but I actually enjoyed playing forward. I seemed to have a knack for it, and scored a few goals when I was playing there.”

But last season was the true test, both on the ice and at home, for White.

He was traded twice – from the Flames to the Hurricanes, then late in the season, from the ‘Canes to the Sharks. Now he hopes that his fortune is changing, and that Detroit will be home for awhile.

“I was in Toronto for quite a few years, so we were pretty settled there,” said White, who grew-up in Steinbach, Manitoba, which is southeast of Winnipeg. “I hadn’t actually been anywhere else. Figured Calgary was a good chance of sticking around there too, and the same with Carolina, because you figure, ‘Who gets traded twice in one year?’ So you never know what to expect. But you have to make it your home and you can’t think about that kind of stuff.”

Something that couldn’t be ignored through all of the trade turmoil was that White’s wife, Tess, was pregnant with the couple’s second child last season, and expected to deliver some time during the playoffs. And as luck would have it, White and his Sharks teammates were one win away from reaching the Western Conference finals when his wife went into labor.

“A lot of emotions, obviously, getting gear-up for a big game, the biggest game of my career, against a legendary team like these guys,” said White, referring to the hours leading up to Game 7 of the conference quarterfinals against the Wings.

“The pressure was probably all on us, because we blew the big 3-0 lead,” he said, “Then you find out that your wife is about ready to go into the hospital anytime. That was interesting to deal with, to say the least.”

White was on a need-to-know basis on the day of the deciding game, and his wife didn’t feel that he needed to know – quite yet. She gave instructions to the Sharks’ public relations staff to alert her husband of her condition only after the game.

“She came to the game,” White said. “I played the game, but it’s hard to keep your mind focused at times. But in the end, we got the win and went straight to the hospital and had our baby.”

But that’s not the whole story. In a hurry to be with his wife and newborn baby daughter, White rushed out of HP Pavilion and straight to the hospital, forgot one thing.

“Yeah, I went straight to the hospital and she was waiting in the wives room,” White said. “That was a long, long day.”

White is looking forward to a calmer experience with a few old friends when the Wings host his former team Friday at Joe Louis Arena.

“It’s always neat to play against your old teammates, see some of your old friends,” he said. “Not too many jobs are like this where you get to match-up against your former partners from a few months earlier.

“I built some pretty good friendships there; a great group of guys in the locker room, and very easy to get along with. Everyone enjoyed spending time together, so we definitely made some good bonds there, and it will be good to see the guys again.”

After the Sharks were eliminated by Vancouver in the conference finals, White felt he had a good enough showing in the playoffs. After all, his nine points in 17 playoff games was second best among Sharks’ defensemen, but in the offseason the Sharks looked elsewhere. And when they made a draft-day trade to acquire Brent Burns from Minnesota, the writing was on the wall for White.

“You never know how it works,” White said. “I wouldn’t say that I haven’t been in the business long enough, but I’ve seen a lot happen in the last few years where you don’t know what to expect. So I was hanging out waiting. It would have been nice to have gotten an offer from them, but in the end, it gave me the opportunity to come here with this great organization.”

It’s funny how things work out, White said. Now he has a two-year deal with an Original Six franchise that has reached the playoffs in 20 straight seasons, and he’s paired on the blue line with the best defenseman to ever play the game, Nicklas Lidstrom.

“A breath of fresh air really,” said White, about the fresh start. “The kids can get settled, the wife, most importantly, and kind of get involved in the community, and not really have that subliminal stress of maybe bouncing around here or there again. It takes a big toll on the family and hopefully I don’t have to go through it again.”

And in a few short months, White is already adhered to the community, establishing White’s Warriors, as a way to recognize the sacrifices made by both U.S. and Canadian military personnel. He has purchased two tickets to every Wings regular-season home game at JLA during the 2011-12 season, and as part of his commitment, White also meets his military guests after each game.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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