TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – It’s been a bittersweet weekend for Mitch Callahan, who returned to the ice for the first time in nearly five months.
“It’s nice that everybody is training coming into the season, but at the same time I would love to do all of this right now and skating in a full practice or scrimmage,” the 23-year-old Callahan said. “That’s the way it goes this time. I have to accept it and battle through it.”
It’s been a rough two years for Callahan, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in February. Ten months earlier, the Red Wings’ sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft, suffered a fractured jaw and lost 10 teeth when he was struck by a puck.
Callahan is in Traverse City where this week he is working out with team trainers and skating on his own at the Wings’ development camp at Centre Ice Arena.
“Just skating on my own but no tight turns or stop and starting as of yet. That’s probably next week,” said Callahan, who expects to be ready for the Red Wings’ main training camp in September.
“Going to camp like everybody else trying to compete for a spot,” he added. “Just to be healthy and prove that – even though I had a knee injury – that my game hasn’t changed. There’s no setback in my game. … I’ll be 100 percent and ready by the end of August, so that’s right in time for camp.”
Now, let’s get to know more about this 23-year-old prospect:
STATUS: Red Wings sixth-round pick in 2009. Right wing entering his fifth American Hockey League season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
DOB: August 17, 1991, Whittier, Calif.
FIRST HOCKEY MEMORY: “My dad played for the Los Angeles Blades back in the RHI (Roller Hockey International), probably skating around there after the games. I was probably three or four years old, just wheeling around.”
HOCKEY HEROES: “My favorite player growing up was Darcy Tucker. I’d probably say my biggest hero is my dad (Mike). He was my coach when I was younger. He kinda never really coached me at home, but he always told me if I needed something to work on he’d let me know. He was always probably my biggest fan.”
LAST BOOK READ: “The Jordin Tootoo book” (All the Way: My Life on Ice).
CURRENT CAR: “A 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee, black.”
FIRST JOB: “Hockey.”
GREATEST SPORTS MOMENT: “There are three really big ones: winning the WHL championship (with Kelowna in 2009); winning the Calder Cup (with Grand Rapids in 2013); and actually winning bronze in the World Juniors (in 2011) is special, and probably playing in my first NHL game, too, in Columbus. I remember everything from that game. My parents were trying to find flights right away the day of the game. I remember I was doing my normal stretches that I do every game and I look up and I see my dad in the stands. He was so excited. And then my first shift was fun too, just being out there and in the NHL. I was just trying to be a little agitator.”
MOST PAINFUL MOMENT: “My mouth. When it first happened and it hurt I didn’t have surgery until the following morning, so that night, trying to go to sleep with the jaw broken was probably the worst pain. That was just over two years ago.”
FAVORITE UNIFORMS: “Growing up as a (Los Angeles) Kings fan they had those old school purple and yellow ones. I grew up wearing those, so maybe those ones.”
FAVORITE ARENA: “ACC” (Air Canada Centre).
CLOSEST HOCKEY FRIENDS: “I’m good friends with Beau Bennett on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Emerson Etem, who just got traded to New York (Rangers). But as of right now I’d probably say Ryan Sproul and then Trevor Parkes who plays for Worcester now.”
FUNNIEST HOCKEY PERSON KNOWN: “Maybe Triston Grant. He’s always pulling pranks and always picking on Steggy (Andrew Stegehuis, Griffins' assistant equipment manager) all of the time, it was pretty funny.”
TOUGHEST COMPETITORS FACED: “I would have to say it was during camp here (in Traverse City), probably Luke Glendening, in 2012. In main camp, me and Glendening were lined up against each other and we always ended up doing one-on-one battle drills against each other. He was probably the most competitive guy I’ve ever faced.”
MOST MEMORABLE GOAL: “Probably the goal in Game 6 against Syracuse (in 2013 Calder Cup finals), which put us up 1-nothing.”
FUNNY HOCKEY MEMORY: “There are so many pranks that go on. Maybe a couple of years ago I was going for a line change and Landon Ferraro and I clipped skates and I ended up face-first into the boards. For some reason every in Van Andel was looking at the time and started laughing. I couldn’t do anything but smile.”
FAVORITE PLAYERS TO WATCH: “I like Ryan Callahan. I like the way he plays. Derek Dorsett’s always been a go-to guy for me, one of those energy guys who has a little bit of skill.”
FAVORITE SPORT OUTSIDE HOCKEY: “Football. I just like contact sports and football is another man sport like hockey. You can’t be wimps playing those kind of sports. You’ve got to be a man, and I appreciate what those guys do. (Did you play?) I wish. High school in California is a lot different than the Midwest where we’ve got high school hockey. We didn’t have high school hockey. We had travel hockey where you practiced every day and I couldn’t make it to football.”
PERSONALITY QUALITIES ADMIRED IN OTHERS: “Probably people who have a big heart, but also have a backbone that they will stick up for themselves and family.”
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Lords of Dogtown” (2005 biographical drama film directed by Catherine Hardwicke). It’s a skateboarding movie and I grew up a skateboarder.”
IF NOT A HOCKEY PLAYER, WHAT: “Growing up I’ve always loved skateboarding, so I’m hoping somewhere in there.”
HIDDEN TALENTS: “I can still do tricks with a skateboard. I can still do a kick with a skateboard.”
FAVORITE VIDEO GAME: “Probably NHL15. I’m not a very big video-game guy. I just play it at the house with some of the guys here and there.”
WHAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE: “I don’t want to say. … Maybe social media and Twitter. I hate to say that. I hate to say it, but I really don’t watch TV, so that’s where I get all of my updates from.”
WHO IS THE MOST-ATHLETIC TEAMMATE: “Andreas Athanasiou. He can run up a wall and do a back flip. He walks on his hands, he can do anything.”
NICKNAME: “Calley or Caveman. Jeff Hoggan and Triston Grant gave me the Caveman name back in the year we won the (Calder) Cup. (Which do you prefer?) Well, my dad grew up as Calley, so maybe Caveman is more me, more my identity.”
PLANS AFTER HOCKEY CAREER: “Hopefully own a business or so and retire to the beach and never have to work a day in my life.”
PREFERRED JERSEY NUMBER: “Well, my NHL number is 57. It’s the number I grew up wearing. That was my dad’s favorite numbers. But in Grand Rapids I picked 15. In juniors I wore 24. I wanted to pick 24 in Grand Rapids but it’s the only jersey retired.”
OFF DAYS: “If it’s nice out, just enjoy the sunshine. But usually just relax and take care of the body. Maybe go to dinner at a buddy’s house, go out to eat somewhere.”
MOST FAMOUS PERSON IN PHONE: “I have a few Wings on my phone, maybe one of those.”
FIRST THING PURCHASE WITH FIRST CONTRACT: “A vacation beach house for me and my friends in Newport Beach for a week. We had a lot of fun.”
GUILTY PLEASURES: “I’m a big cookie and donut guy, I guess. I’ve got to stay away from that, but I like chocolate chip cookies. But they have to be warm.”
ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DO/HAVE BEFORE EVERY GAME: “Honestly, I’m not very superstitious at all. I’ve got little things that I do every game day, but nothing big. I like to nap. I feel that I get too tired. I like to have an energy drink before I get to the rink. I walk to the rink in Grand Rapids, so I just drink it on my walk.”
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL: “Night owl. I have sleep apnea so it’s a real tough time for me to get up.”
IF YOU COULD BE SOMEONE’S TEAMMATE FOR A DAY, WHO: “Myself. I don’t like anybody else. I like myself the most (laughing).”
GO BACK IN TIME MOMENT: “The night Sprouly hit me in the face with the puck. I would not stand in front of the net.”
WHAT SCARES YOU: “Being killed, I guess. I don’t know. Spiders and snakes.”
MOST EMBARRASSING CHILDHOOD MOMENT: “I have a few. I think the time that I went to the wrong class and ended up falling asleep and not knowing it was the wrong class. … When I was a baby I couldn’t talk that well, so I would say some bad things. (Babies don’t talk well) But I was like two. (You knew foul language then?) Yeah, unfortunately. (You said what to who?) I can’t repeat it.”