By Stefan Kubus –
Luke Glendening is set to play in the fourth outdoor game of his hockey career, but there’s just one snag.
He doesn’t know what team he’ll be playing for yet.
The 24-year-old Grand Rapids native started the 2013-14 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, but has since been recalled up to the parent Detroit Red Wings on six different occasions due to Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock shaking up the lines and also due to a number of injuries.
Should Detroit receive a collectively cleaner bill of health by the time the Winter Classic rolls around, Glendening – who has one assist in 13 NHL games as of Friday afternoon – will likely be sent down to the AHL to play with Grand Rapids at Comerica Park instead, but that’s not something the forward is worried about.
“I just take it day by day here,” Glendening said. “I don’t know how long my time here will last, but you’ve just got to make the most of it while you’re here, and it’s an opportunity to make a name for myself.”
One thing is for sure, though – Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock has loved what he has seen out of Glendening so far this season as a defensive forward when called upon. In fact, following a preseason win against Toronto before Glendening even made his NHL regular-season debut, Babcock had a strong prediction for the forward’s future.
“He’s a good player,” Babcock said after that game. “He’s smart, he’s another guy like (Joakim Andersson); you trust him, you don’t worry about him. I had him out there every penalty kill right off the get-go. He’ll play for the Red Wings. He’s smart enough and competitive enough and knows how to play good enough. He’ll find a way to play in the NHL.”
Whether he is playing for the Griffins on Dec. 31 at Comerica Park or playing for the Red Wings on Jan. 1, Glendening will have plenty of outdoor experience to call upon.
It started back on Feb. 6, 2010 when Glendening was a Wolverine and Michigan fell to Wisconsin outdoors at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc. in front of 55,031. In December of that same year, ‘The Big Chill’ saw the Wolverines trump storied rival Michigan State, 5-0, at Michigan Stadium in front of 113,411 fans, the biggest crowd to ever see a hockey game… for now. Lastly, in 2012, Michigan defeated Ohio State at Progressive Field in Ohio.
“It is special,” Glendening said of his opportunity to play in a fourth outdoor game. “Some people don’t get to play in one, so to be able to play in three already and have the opportunity for one more is pretty special.”
In his time with the Wolverines, Glendening registered 70 points in 165 collegiate games over a four-year career, and was named the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward at the end of the 2011-12 season.
And going back even further, Glendening said that spirit of the outdoor game is something he’ll always enjoy considering how much it was a part of his childhood, so much so that it helps calm his nerves in those situations now.
“It brings back memories of when you were a kid playing, and I think that helps. It’s just something that you’ve grown up doing, so it just kind of brings you back to your roots… It’s definitely fun to play out there.”
Despite having played at Michigan Stadium before, he said he’d have no particular advantage should he suit up for the Winter Classic, especially since the fans in blue would be cheering against him this time.
“I think it’s all pretty much the same. It’d be a pretty neat experience just because that’s where I went to school and I played in ‘The Big Chill’ there, but either game I’m excited to play in and I’m happy to be a part of either team.”