Downey excited about opportunity
Former Wings' enforcer to tryout for roster spot
“I took a year off for a reason,” said Downey, in an interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “I trained the whole year. I worked on my conditioning. I worked on my body. I worked on my joints. Just the areas that needed work on, and I worked on my mental state.”
Downey played 56 games during the Wings’ 2008 Stanley Cup season, and he recently asked Wings general manager Ken Holland for a tryout when the team reports to Traverse City for training camp in September.
“I approached them, just like I called them the year that we won the Cup,” said Downey, who earned a one-year contract in 2007 after winning over the coaching staff in training camp.
“I still skated and I can still handle the puck,” he said. “I always thought that I would comeback, but I needed to rebuild the body and get ahead of everybody in the physical fitness department.”
Downey, 35, signed again with the Wings in 2008-09, though he was assigned to Grand Rapids for much of the season. Last season, the Red Wings went in a different direction, signing another veteran enforcer, Brad May, to a one-year deal.
In 2007-08, Downey collected single-season career-highs for games played and penalty-minutes (116). He also collected 10 fighting majors that season, with perhaps the most-memorable being his retaliatory bout with Ian Laperriere for the cheap hit that the Colorado forward had on Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
A nine-year NHL veteran, Downey was well-liked by his Wings’ teammates, came to their defense on the ice, and was a positive influence in the locker room. The feeling, Downey said, is mutual.
“I went into the Phoenix camp and I thought that I could do it, but I couldn’t give it my all,” he said. “I just didn’t have that natural energy. … I felt that I left my heart in Detroit.
“I established so many wonderful relationships and winning the Cup, and just seeing how Detroit runs their organization. It’s just first class and there’s a reason why it says, “Family” on those Stanley Cup rings, because it’s run like a family.”
Following his failed tryout with the Coyotes, Downey stayed in Arizona, where he has trained for the last 10 months.
“Now I feel really good about myself,” he said. “I’m just coming there – like I did in ’07 and ’08 – with a better attitude, a lucky-to-be-alive attitude. I really want to come in there, shut my mouth and just do what I do. I want to show them that I’ve developed. And just because I took a year off doesn’t mean that I can’t handle a puck. I think I can handle it better now. … I’m in a better state of mind.”
Downey said that he expects to return to Detroit in early September to take advance of the per-camp training sessions at Joe Louis Arena.
“I’m really excited about coming back there,” he said, “and for some reason it just seems right.”