With NHL training camps starting in less than two weeks, dozens of Griffins alumni are getting ready to lace ’em up for another season. But at least a half-dozen players who once played for Grand Rapids have hung up their skates for the final time.
The most recent addition to the list of offseason retirees was defenseman Shane Hnidy. Although his three regular season and three playoff games last season did not qualify his name to be engraved on the Stanley Cup, he capped off 15 productive pro seasons and a 10-year NHL career by hoisting the trophy as a member of the Boston Bruins in June. Hnidy, who spent the entire 1997-98 campaign with the Griffins plus a two-game stint in 2000-01, has joined the Winnipeg Jets’ radio team as a color commentator alongside play-by-play man Brian Munz, formerly the voice of the Manitoba Moose.
Similarly, Patrick Lalime has left the ice for a perch high above it. The goaltender, a Griffins teammate of Hnidy’s 14 years ago, logged the last of his 12 NHL seasons in 2010-11 as a backup to Buffalo and former MSU star Ryan Miller. Still the owner of the NHL record for the longest unbeaten streak to start his career (16 games with Pittsburgh in 1996-97), Lalime will be seen on RDS as an analyst for Ottawa Senators telecasts.
Three other former Griffins are also staying around the game, but as coaches:
- Chris Osgood, who toiled in three games for the Griffins during a conditioning stint in 2005-06, will be a frequent visitor to Van Andel Arena in his new role as the Red Wings’ goaltending development coach;
- Ben Simon, a one-time Griffins killer as a member of the Orlando Solar Bears and Chicago Wolves who came to Grand Rapids in a trade late in the 2006-07 season, returned to the States after a final season in England to become an assistant coach with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs;
- Martin Prusek, named the AHL’s outstanding goaltender as a member of the Griffins in 2001-02, joined HC Vitkovice in the Czech Extraliga as a goaltending coach after finishing his playing career with the club last season. He still owns the Grand Rapids franchise record for lowest goals against average in a season, a league-leading 1.83 from a decade ago.
The last on our list of confirmed retirees is Jeff Nelson, a center on the Griffins’ inaugural 1996-97 squad who returned for stints in 2003-04 and 2005-06. His whereabouts are unknown after he said goodbye to a 19-year pro career that included stops in the NHL, AHL, IHL, CHL, UHL, Italy and Germany. Nelson’s 34 goals, 55 assists and 89 points from Grand Rapids’ first season still rank fourth (tied), second (tied) and third, respectively, on the team’s single-season scoring lists.
Today’s Griffins links:
- Video: One-on-one with Detroit Red Wings prospect Brendan Smith (Hockey News)
- Tickets for Red Wings’ Red-White game at Van Andel Arena go on sale Wednesday (MLive)
Alumni news and notes:
- Red Wings’ Niklas Kronwall eyes new contract, ponders spending career with team (MLive)
- Kronwall talks contract, hole-in-one (Red Wings)
- Hard-hitting Wing Niklas Kronwall wants more aggression (Detroit News)
- Manny Legace gets a second chance with the Vancouver Canucks (Suite 101)