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LISTEN UP!

12/19/2014 12:04 AM -
Andy Miele is doing his best to improve his play to a level that pricks up the ears of the Red Wings' front office.
                
When you think about the various skills required to play in the National Hockey League, the ability to listen is probably not the first one that comes to mind. And yet, there may be no more important quality for a player interested in improving his game.
                
Hockey is a sport where self-preservation is a natural urge, and the tendency of some players is to hear only what they want to hear. Thinking they know what is best for them, young players all too often believe the quickest way to the NHL is the path of least resistance.            
                
Andy Miele has learned to listen.
                
It was not always so. As a youngster growing up in Grosse Pointe Woods near Detroit, Miele (pronounced mee-lee) was a bit of a pistol with a rebellious streak. Having been raised on 8 Mile like rapper Eminen, he wonders if he might have had a little bit of a gangster attitude.
                
"I was probably a tough kid to deal with," said Miele, who started skating when he was 4. "When I was real young, my mom and dad would have to pin me down to get me dressed because I didn't want to go to the rink."
                
Miele liked to play hockey – in fact, he played all sports except football – but practice was another story. "Some days I wanted to go, but if I didn't want to go, I didn't want to go. So on certain days, for a little bit, they had to push me."

SKATE LIKE THE WIND

12/19/2014 12:03 AM -
Speed is the name of the game for Griffins defenseman Nick Jensen.
            
Growing up in Minnesota, Nick Jensen loved the outdoors. He played soccer, football and hockey, the latter often on the frozen ponds that dotted the landscape – the state is known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” for a reason.
                
His father, Jeff, had played college hockey at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie back in the ‘70s, and he steered his son in the direction of becoming a defenseman.
                
"His idea was that finding good, fast, puck-moving defensemen is pretty rare," Jensen said. "He felt that if you can get those things down, you can definitely go places with it."
                
Although Jensen was athletic and excelled at all sports – he was an all-conference running back and free safety on the Rogers High School football team – hockey was his first love.
                
His father was chosen by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round (159th overall) of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft; his mother Teresa was originally from Michigan (Flint), which made the Detroit Red Wings his favorite team.
                
"They always tell the story about how they were walking through a sporting goods store and picked up a pair of skates and how I started crying when they put them back. I don't know if it's true, but it's the story they told."

HOCKEY AMBASSADOR

12/19/2014 12:02 AM -
Goalie Tom McCollum has been a pillar of service in the Grand Rapids community throughout his six seasons with the Griffins.
                
A smile. A wave. A handshake. A simple hello. An autograph.
                
It doesn't take much for a professional athlete to make a positive, lasting impression on a kid. Tom McCollum is only too glad to oblige young hockey fans because there was a time when he, too, stood in awe of his heroes.
                
Living in upstate New York, McCollum's family had a natural affinity for the NHL team in Buffalo, since their hometown of Amherst is the largest and most populous suburb of The Nickel City. When the Griffins goaltender thinks of his personal heroes, he tells two stories related to Sabres players, one of which predates his earliest memories.
                
Brad May was scheduled to sign autographs at a grocery store in Amherst after being selected in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, McCollum wasn't even a year old, but his mom and aunt stood in line to get a photo autographed and personalized.
                
"I grew up with that photo in my room – in fact, the picture's still there – and I was fortunate enough to play with Brad during my first year in Grand Rapids," McCollum said. "When he was here, I showed him the picture in private to let him know that the little things you do can go a long way."

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

12/19/2014 12:01 AM -
Goaltending coach Jeff Salajko is helping the Red Wings' top prospects progress toward the NHL.
      
When Detroit Red Wings minor league goaltending coach Jeff Salajko talks with the Griffins’ netminders, he brings a unique perspective.
            
A 10th-round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, Salajko (pronounced suh-LAY-koh) posted a 148-125-31 record in the pros, playing all but 52 of his 323 pro games in the ECHL with Columbus (Ohio), Arkansas, Reading, Peoria and Charlotte.
            
He joined the Toledo Storm in March 2003 for the ECHL playoffs, serving as a backup in the first round before fatigue and frayed nerves forced him to the stands.
            
Within months, he had trouble climbing stairs, and his muscles would regularly twitch and spasm. Something was seriously wrong.
            
Although doctors initially feared it might be amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), it turned out to be benign fasciculation syndrome, a neurological disorder with some of the same symptoms as ALS, but one that can be treated with medication.
            
Nonetheless, it spelled an end to Salajko's playing career at the relatively young age of 28.

GROWING CONFIDENCE

10/10/2014 1:15 AM -
With a full season of pro hockey under his belt, Ryan Sproul is anxious to take the next step toward his dream of a regular spot in the NHL.

Ryan Sproul was not much different from most boys growing up in Mississauga, west of Toronto.
 
He played a lot of sports, trying his luck at soccer, baseball, basketball, golf, volleyball and, naturally, hockey.
 
His dream, of course, was to someday play in the National Hockey League.
 
Sproul was a bit unusual in one respect. His favorite NHL team was not the nearby Maple Leafs but the Tampa Bay Lightning, a result of his having a grandfather in Florida and the fact that his favorite player, Martin St. Louis, was a star on the team.
 
He watched the Leafs – they were always on TV – but, in his words, the hometown team wasn’t a big deal for him. He’d rather be playing hockey himself.
 
His parents, Phil and Paulette, were supportive of his athletic endeavors. His dad, an executive in the travel and tourism industry, was his coach for several years, and his brother Kyle, a year younger, served as his practice partner.
 
“My brother is a goalie so I had the opportunity to shoot on him whenever I could,” Sproul said. “A lot of parents want their kids to do stuff like that, but I just went along and did my thing, nothing special.”
 
Sproul was a forward growing up. He liked being on the offensive side of the puck. Scoring goals was fun – there was no way around that fact – and he was able to use his skating ability and his shot to put up his share of points.
 


GREECE’D LIGHTNING
October 10, 2014 1:07 AM

MICHIGAN MAN
October 10, 2014 1:03 AM

CONFIDENT CONFIDANTS
October 10, 2014 12:57 AM

THE QUEST TO REPEAT
March 29, 2014 2:12 PM

REMAKE/REMODEL
March 29, 2014 2:02 PM

RADIO MVP
March 29, 2014 1:56 PM

POSITIVE ATTITUDE
January 30, 2014 10:28 AM

TAKING FLIGHT
January 30, 2014 10:22 AM

MAKING THE GRADE
January 30, 2014 10:17 AM

MEDAL WINNER
January 30, 2014 10:11 AM

NO BUS FOR GUS
December 13, 2013 1:34 AM

BANNER ACHIEVEMENT
December 13, 2013 1:29 AM

HAVE ICE, WILL TRAVEL
December 13, 2013 12:55 AM

FATHER'S FOOTSTEPS
December 13, 2013 12:51 AM

PUCK HAPPY
December 13, 2013 12:41 AM

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