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Memories of Backyard Rinks in Steinbach Keep Ian White Grounded

There was no doubt in Ian White’s mind. When he returned to the Red Wings locker room after severing a tendon in his left knee in Tuesday’s loss to Dallas, the veteran defenseman from Steinbach knew that the rehab period would be long and painful.

“It’s kind of depressing that something like this happens so early in the season when you start getting your legs under you and have a setback for a couple of weeks,” White told reportes in Detroit on Friday. “It doesn’t make you feel very good. But other than that I’m in pretty good spirits.”

Ian White

Ian White

White has been told he’ll miss three full weeks of action while the nasty gash – and the tendon inside – on his leg heals. He told reporters he hasn’t seen any video of the accident that was caused by the skate of Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

“I was the third man back, it was a two-on-two,” he told reporters. “I think one of our guys got beat and they were taking the puck to the net and I kind of started crashing the net. Howie made a great save and I took the heel of his skate right at the top of the knee.
“It could have been a lot worse. You have a tendon going right over your knee cap. It just missed it. I guess if I would have cut that I might have been gone for the season. I’m pretty lucky really.”

Throughout his career, Ian White has been dodging bullets. Scouts have called him too small for the NHL. The media has chastised him for his perceived lack of size. He’s already played with five NHL teams in six full seasons in the NHL.

While the game has always been pretty easy for him, the perceptions have not.

“If there is one thing I know about playing at this level,” he told us recently. “Things change quickly. One day, you’re down and out and the next day, you’re playing 28-29 minutes a game.

“It’s like my dad always said: ‘Just enjoy the game and just stay positive.’ I did that and I know I’ll get better and the game will be great again. I know a couple of guys have retired but I look at this team and I see that we have a pretty solid future. And I’m really glad that I’m getting to be a big part of it.”

Ian White Calgary Flames

Ian White Calgary Flames

Ian White is a big time professional hockey player. Not an NHL star, perhaps, but a guy who contributes mightily to his team’s success – or failure – every night. He’s not a bit-part player. He’s not a journeyman. At 28, Ian White plays — a lot.

In fact, the night he was cut, he had already played 17 minutes and 36 seconds of the game. He had been averaging almost 22 minutes a game on a Red Wuings team that is still very, very good.

“We really like Whitie and we have a lot of respect for him here,” Wings head coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. “He’s the kind of player we need here. He’s not very big, so he get worn down a little bit, but he’s never going to complain about it. He likes to play and he just eats up ice time.

“He’s consistent and we rely on him. What I love most about him is that he’s good with the puck. He skates really well and he moves the puck quickly. He has great skills for a defenceman.”

At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds soaking wet – he’s cut like an MMF champion – White drew a lot of criticism from the Toronto press corps when he started his NHL career with the Leafs. In his final season in Toronto, the Leafs press corps spent much of the season pointing fingers. Right at Ian White.

Back then, there was so much concern about how his lack of size affected his ability to play defence in the NHL that the media was apoplectic if White was ever pushed off the puck by a larger player. But White never complained about how he was treated and just tried to play as well as he could.

Ian White with his battle scars

Ian White with his battle scars

In 2009, he was finally traded to Calgary and the next season was moved again, after the Flames were eliminated from the playoff hunt, to Carolina. He made another move, to San Jose, before the end of the season (yes, that’s four teams in less than two years) but by the time he got to Detroit last year, he was exactly what the Wings were after – a smart defenseman who could skate and move the puck.

By the time he was injured earlier this week, this former sixth-round draft pick (2002) by Toronto, out of the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, was becoming the new anchor of the Wings defence.

 

And nothing could have made him happier. In three games to start the season, he had a goal and was plus-1.

“I love it, I love Detroit, I love what I get to do,” he said with a smile. “But it’s not easy. Detroit is a great hockey city and there has been a lot of success here. There is a lot of pressure. If you screw up, there is a lot of attention paid to it. But I was in Toronto to start my career. I’m used to it.

Not surprisingly, whenever the pressures of being in that huge “Hockeytown” fish bowl start to gnaw away at him, Ian White just thinks back to those times when he was skating on the backyward rink that his dad, Allan White, used to make.

“Yep, my dad, used to build a rink in our backyard and I’d play all day and all night,” he said. “My dad was my coach and nothing was better than my minor hockey days in Steinbach. I loved playing for my dad and I loved playing with my friends. Whenever things start to bug me, I just think about how much I love playing the game.

“Work hard, stay positive, enjoy the game. My dad always said that and I think about it every single day.”

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