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July 12, 2013

by Kyle Kujawa -

If Luke Glendening’s rookie season with the Griffins were made into a movie, some might find it a little unrealistic. The reality is, after facing some adversity early in the season, it’s hard to argue that his first professional season could have gone any better.

The East Grand Rapids native didn’t make the team out of training camp after signing in the offseason, partially due to the fact that the Griffins were carrying a few extra players who were casualties of the NHL lockout.

“I started in Toledo, but that was a growing experience,” said Glendening. “I think it was necessary for my development as a player.”

Glendening embraced the move and the ice time that came with being an impact player in the ECHL. After a career-high of 10 goals during his four-year career at the University of Michigan, Glendening racked up 14 over 21 games with Toledo, ranking among league leaders and helping him earn a spot in the league’s All-Star Game.

Back in the AHL, the Griffins were blanked in back-to-back games in mid-December by Peoria and Toronto, and head coach Jeff Blashill shuffled the deck. Glendening was recalled from the Walleye and slotted onto a new-look fourth line. The decision paid off 2:49 into the first period of the following game against Rochester, as Glendening, the first Greater Grand Rapids native to ever skate for the team, scored on his first goal and his first shot.

What was surely a heart-warming moment for his family and friends proved to be one of just many highs for Glendening, as he stuck with the Griffins for the rest of the season and gradually earned more responsibility.

“Seriously, I don’t think I would change a thing,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of work to be done. I have goals for myself that I want to accomplish, and I can’t stop.”

The story continued to grow, as Glendening took a step forward during the Calder Cup Playoffs, tying for first among AHL rookies with 16 points, including a series-clinching goal against Toronto, and serving as a thorn in his opponent’s side while helping the Griffins to their first-ever championship.

“That’s a special memory that we will share forever,” said Glendening. “It was special to be able to share it with my family and friends. Obviously, it’s a team thing and not just about me, but being from Grand Rapids and being able to bring [the Cup] back to some familiar faces was cool.”
Two weeks later, the Red Wings inked him to an NHL contract.

“It’s a weight off my shoulders for sure,” he said. “But I don’t think my expectations have changed. I still want to get better every day, so I have to come in and put in the work. I’m excited to be part of the organization for another year, but there’s a lot to be done and it’s not going to be easy.”

For Glendening, that means cutting his offseason short – by nearly two months. Detroit is currently hosting its annual skill development camp in Traverse City, and Glendening is the only full-time Griffin in attendance.

“It’s good,” he said. “You have to get back to work at some point, there’s not much time to rest. It’s great to be back on the ice. There are a lot of good players here. A lot of them were ‘Black Aces’ in Grand Rapids, so I met them there and played with them a little.”

Whether it was the convenient two-and-a-half hour trip from his home in Grand Rapids, or a chance to get an early audition for an NHL call-up next season, the decision meant Glendening’s busiest season ever would get a little busier.

After playing an average of 41 games per season as a Wolverine, Glendening played 27 with Toledo and 75 combined regular season and playoff games with Grand Rapids. But he learned quickly that even a few weeks off would cost him on the ice.

“I’m out of shape right now and that’s my main issue,” he said. “I felt dead after [the first practice], but it was a good feeling. I love the game, and I love to be on the ice. So I’m really excited to be up here.”

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