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Larry Wigge | NHL.com columnist
Feb 6, 2007, 10:14 AM EST


Not a game would pass when David Legwand and his dad would not either be glued to the TV or close by the radio, keeping abreast of what the Detroit Red Wings were doing.

It was like a religion in the Legwand household in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. They talked about hockey all the time. One problem: young David couldn’t skate, so he couldn’t play.

That’s where the elder David Legwand, a banker, did his 6-year-old son the biggest favor of his life. Street hockey wasn’t good enough for David Legwand Sr.’s son. He went out and built a backyard rink to help his son fulfill his aspirations to playing hockey someday. A 15-by-50-feet sheet of ice is narrow by normal standards, but it helped young David perfect his skating, his quick bursts. Quickly “Leggy”, as his friends called him, passed the other kids on blades.

"I would spend all day out there, come in for dinner when my mom called and go back out all night until mom called me in to go to bed," Legwand told me recently. "We set up lights out there. I felt skating was the most important part of becoming a hockey player. So, basically, I’d watch the pros and try to copy their skating styles and strides. It took me about two years to get comfortable with my own skating style."

Tall at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, David Legwand made it look easy with that smooth, effortless long stride of his. He was one of those players that the puck seems to find. Then, he’d draw opponents toward him and, either make a quick acceleration around the defender or deftly sneak a pretty pass to a teammate. Scary smart.

When he got to 14-15, he quit playing baseball to devote his full attention to hockey. At 17, he was beginning to get scholarship offers from college hockey programs, including Michigan and Michigan State. He had an invitation to join the U.S. Under-18 team and national development program. Or, he could compete in the Ontario Hockey League against the best Canadian players, some as old as 20.

He chose the Plymouth (Mich.) Whalers and in his first year in the OHL and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player -- the first rookie in 24 years and only the second American to earn the honor.

"From the time he was a kid growing up in the Detroit area, you could see that he was going to be the best prospect from around here since Mike Modano," Detroit Red Wings Assistant General Manager Jim Nill told me just before Legwand was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft, behind only Vincent Lecavalier. "David is a lot like Modano in that they're both great skaters, they move through people well.

"Legwand is very slippery. He's one of those guys you can't really hold up. He has a really nice scoring touch ... soft hands."

When the Stanley Cup Final came around that year, Legwand joined Lecavalier and defenseman Brad Stuart, center Manny Malhotra and Simon Gagne as top draft prospects who were introduced to the media masses covering the Stanley Cup Final.

We quickly learned that the Modano comparisons stopped there for Legwand, who actually wanted to be just like his favorite Detroit player -- Steve Yzerman.

Today, in his eighth NHL season with the Nashville Predators, there is more meaning to that love of watching Yzerman for Legwand.

"I loved to watch him play," Legwand said. "I mean, here’s a guy who scored 60 goals twice and 155 points in a season, but all he wanted was a championship. So, he sacrificed his points to be an even better team player and helped the Red Wings win three Stanley Cups. To me, learning how to become a great two-way player is the path every kid growing up wanting to have a hockey career should look at."

That team-first mentality is part of what attracted the Predators to Legwand, not his great numbers in junior hockey. Legwand came into the NHL willing to learn the two-way game first, and now he’s beginning to put up career numbers offensively.

I remember Predators General Manager David Poile stopping short of calling Legwand a franchise player on draft day, but Poile really, really, really wanted the kid from Grosse Pointe Woods.

When he got to 14-15, he quit playing baseball to devote his full attention to hockey. At 17, he was beginning to get scholarship offers from college hockey programs, including Michigan and Michigan State. He had an invitation to join the U.S. Under-18 team and national development program. Or, he could compete in the Ontario Hockey League against the best Canadian players, some as old as 20.

He chose the Plymouth (Mich.) Whalers and in his first year in the OHL and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player -- the first rookie in 24 years and only the second American to earn the honor.

"From the time he was a kid growing up in the Detroit area, you could see that he was going to be the best prospect from around here since Mike Modano," Detroit Red Wings Assistant General Manager Jim Nill told me just before Legwand was the second overall pick in the 1998 draft, behind only Vincent Lecavalier. "David is a lot like Modano in that they're both great skaters, they move through people well.

"Legwand is very slippery. He's one of those guys you can't really hold up. He has a really nice scoring touch ... soft hands."

When the Stanley Cup Final came around that year, Legwand joined Lecavalier and defenseman Brad Stuart, center Manny Malhotra and Simon Gagne as top draft prospects who were introduced to the media masses covering the Stanley Cup Final.

We quickly learned that the Modano comparisons stopped there for Legwand, who actually wanted to be just like his favorite Detroit player -- Steve Yzerman.

Today, in his eighth NHL season with the Nashville Predators, there is more meaning to that love of watching Yzerman for Legwand.

"I loved to watch him play," Legwand said. "I mean, here’s a guy who scored 60 goals twice and 155 points in a season, but all he wanted was a championship. So, he sacrificed his points to be an even better team player and helped the Red Wings win three Stanley Cups. To me, learning how to become a great two-way player is the path every kid growing up wanting to have a hockey career should look at."

That team-first mentality is part of what attracted the Predators to Legwand, not his great numbers in junior hockey. Legwand came into the NHL willing to learn the two-way game first, and now he’s beginning to put up career numbers offensively.

I remember Predators General Manager David Poile stopping short of calling Legwand a franchise player on draft day, but Poile really, really, really wanted the kid from Grosse Pointe Woods.

FULL STORY
 
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