Look­ing back on ca­reer

Doug Grant has fond mem­o­ries of pro­tect­ing the cage in the Na­tional Hockey League

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - BY DAVE KEARSEY dkearsey@thewest­ern­star.com Twit­ter: WS_S­port­sDesk

Doug Grant re­flects on ca­reer ahead of Hockey Day in Canada.

Doug Grant spent count­less hours play­ing shinny on the back­yard rink of the late Ge­orge Daddy Dawe and the frozen ice of the Bay of Is­lands when he was grow­ing up in Curl­ing.

It would be the start to some­thing spe­cial.

Grant, who is now 69, went on to es­tab­lish him­self as one of the prov­ince’s best when he be­came the first New­found­land goalie to play in the Na­tional Hockey League when he signed with the Detroit Red Wings in 1973.

Grant pa­trolled the crease for a Cor­ner Brook pee­wee team that also pro­duced the first Cor­ner Brook na­tive to play in the NHL — Joe Lun­dri­gan, who played with both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Cap­i­tals.

The Cor­ner Brook pee­wee squad played St. John’s in a onegame show­down for the pro­vin­cial ti­tle dur­ing the 1958-59 sea­son and the Roy­als downed the town­ies 1-0 with Grant record­ing the shutout.

The fol­low­ing sea­son, Grant recorded an­other shutout as the Cor­ner Brook squad beat Har­bour Grace 3-0 in the pro­vin­cial fi­nal at Bell Is­land.

In Fe­bru­ary of 1960, Cor­ner Brook trav­elled to Ri­mouski for an an­nual Que­bec in­ter­na­tional hockey tour­na­ment and lost to Ri­mouski 2-1, and two months later the Ri­mouski team came to Cor­ner Brook for a two-game se­ries with the first game end­ing in a 1-1 draw and the Roy­als earn­ing a 2-1 vic­tory in the other game.

Grant grad­u­ated from the mi­nor hockey ranks and played five sea­sons with the Cor­ner Brook Roy­als be­fore he and wife Ros­alind de­cided to move to St. John’s so Grant could at­tend Me­mo­rial Univer­sity.

A scout from the Detroit Red Wings or­ga­ni­za­tion watched Grant per­form in a 4-3 loss to Saint Mary’s in col­lege hockey in 1972 and an in­vite to the Red Wings train­ing camp for the fol­low­ing sea­son was of­fered.

Grant would even­tu­ally work out a deal that would make him the prop­erty of the Red Wings and his NHL pen­sion says he played 431 NHL games be­tween the Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues where he ended his ca­reer.

“All the way grow­ing up through, no­body ever thinks you’re go­ing to make the NHL be­cause that was so far re­moved from us guys,” Grant said.

He did make the show and he be­lieves sur­viv­ing the pro­hockey racket was a pretty de­cent ac­com­plish­ment. It was a whirl­wind jour­ney: one day he was play­ing with his bud­dies and next thing you know he’s one of the goalies on the big screen in liv­ing rooms around the world so he will al­ways have

fond mem­o­ries.

He learned that tim­ing in life is ev­ery­thing, re­gard­less of what some­body does for a liv­ing. There were times when he thought he would get other op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­tend his play­ing ca­reer and a case where a coach­ing gig didn’t ma­te­ri­al­ize be­cause of a change in the head coach, but he learned to live with it be­cause hockey was more than a game.

“Hockey is a busi­ness and it’s treated that way, and as soon as a player re­al­izes that the bet­ter off you are too be­cause that’s what you are,” he said. “Man­age­ment make de­ci­sions based on what they see and you go along with it same as any other job.”

“You have a job to do and that’s it,” he said.

Pro­fes­sional hockey paved the way for Grant’s life af­ter the goalie pads had been put to the way­side. He re­tired from a sales ca­reer with Mol­son Coors af­ter 23 years of ser­vice in 2006 and his sta­tus as a for­mer NHLer didn’t hurt his chance of find­ing suc­cess.

“A lot of the places I went into I had the ad­van­tage of name recog­ni­tion and, in New­found­land, of course, ev­ery­body likes hockey and they want to talk hockey so I think that gave me a foot in the door,” he said.

He was one of the elite and thank­ful for what life brought from hockey.

New­found­land and Labrador has pro­duced a num­ber of NHLers and it wouldn’t be a big deal if more fol­lowed, but Grant be­lieves ev­ery mi­nor hockey

player must make sure they are hav­ing fun first be­fore they think about big dreams.

He said a player must have luck and a lot of skill to make it to the NHL re­gard­less of where they played the game grow­ing up. If a per­son is for­tu­nate enough to get a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion from play­ing or hap­pens to be one of the few who turn pro that’s re­ally good stuff, but he in­sists hav­ing fun play­ing the game is what mat­ters most.

“When I was a young fella it was al­ways fun for me,” he said. “If you’re not hav­ing fun there’s no point in play­ing, and don’t play be­cause some­body else wants you to do it. Do it be­cause you want to do it.

“You go to be able to play the game, en­joy your­self and when the game is over just walk away from it,” he added.

Grant is look­ing for­ward to see­ing some of his friends when he re­turns to Cor­ner Brook next week for Hockey Day in Canada events.

De­spite his pedi­gree as a puck­stop­per, Grant won’t be strap­ping on the goalie pads for the Alumni game. He fig­ures he’s safer be­ing be­hind the bench chang­ing the lines and let­ting the younger guys do the work.

“I won’t be play­ing goal. Those days are over. The old knees and the body aren’t re­spond­ing the way it used to one time,” he said with a hearty chuckle.

“All the way grow­ing up through, no­body ever thinks you’re go­ing to make the NHL be­cause that was so far re­moved from us guys.”

Doug Grant

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Cor­ner Brook na­tive Doug Grant is shown here in his Detroit Red Wings gear.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Doug Grant is seen here in a re­cent photo taken in St. John’s where he lives with his wife Ros­alind and stays closely in touch with his two sons.

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