Call enthralls Meech

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

TORONTO -- As if playing in your first National Hockey League contest wasn't nerve-racking enough, try sitting on the bench for half a period before your first shift.

Not that Derek Meech was complaining about his debut with the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 7.

The mobile defenceman from Winnipeg had waited years for his magical moment and he wasn't about to let a little inactivity dampen his spirits.

"I was ecstatic to get the call, there was kind of some disbelief at first," Meech said yesterday before the skills competition at the AHL All-Star Classic.

"I was sitting there and I was pretty anxious for awhile but I finally got out there. It was better than I've ever felt in any of the exhibition games or anything like that. It was nice."

Meech said he had a tough time with his emotions before he hit the ice.

"It's a lot different up there. There are cameras in the room before the game," said Meech, a seventh round pick of the Red Wings in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.

"There were a lot of jitters, especially walking in the Detroit room and seeing portraits of past players on the walls.

"Even in the stalls that aren't being used, they've got (Gordie) Howe and (Alex) Delvecchio. Seeing the tradition was a phenomenal experience."

Before he was returned to the Grand Rapids Griffins, Meech appeared in four games with the Red Wings and even saw some power-play time in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

FIRST POINT

"We ended up getting up on them, so I got out there with Nicklas Lidstrom and the guys were trying to get me my first point," said Meech.

Meech and a couple of his Griffins teammates -- Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson -- got a vote of confidence in the press recently when Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he wouldn't be looking to add any more blue-liners before the trade deadline because of the confidence he has in his youngsters.

"That's encouraging," said Meech. "My goal this year was to get called up, and it happened. I got my feet wet. You always have doubts about whether you can play up there. It was a good feeling to go up there and handle it."

Upon his demotion to the Griffins, Meech got some encouraging words from Holland and Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, then got a pat on the back from a Red Wings legend.

"Steve Yzerman came up to me when I got sent down and said 'Just so you know, you turned some heads and you played well while you were up here,'" said Meech. "Coming from a guy like that, it's unbelievable."


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