May finds way to Detroit

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:52 PM ET

DETROIT - The Red Wings make it a point of pride not to carry a regular enforcer and keep fighting to a minimum.

They’re usually among the NHL’s least-penalized teams, a scant 10 minutes a game average last season, and their frequent trips to the Stanley Cup final aren’t a coincidence.

But Friday’s pre-season game against the Maple Leafs at Joe Louis Arena might be an exception. Toronto has made no secret that a plank of its rebuilding scheme includes carrying some truculent defencemen and forwards, while the Wings have ex-Leaf Brad May in on a tryout and plan to use him versus his most recent team.

Another pugnacious ex-Leaf, forward Kris Newbury, is currently with Detroit’s farm team roster with Grand Rapids.

Wings’ coach Mike Babcock had dismissed talk of an arms race in the coming back-to-back games.

“We play against lots of tough teams,” he said Wednesday. “If they’re looking to scrap, they’ve got to go somewhere else, that’s not happening here.”

So the choice of May is curious, but the coach also has to get his B list players in some games before taking the main roster to Stockholm to open the NHL season against the St. Louis Blues next week.

Babcock, whose team has one scrap in pre-season compared to 17 by the Leafs according to hockeyfights.com, was asked yesterday if something he saw in Detroit’s play the past few games had changed his thinking on adding muscle. May has played 1,001 games, with 142 fighting majors, seven as a Leaf last year.

“It’s just the way it worked out,” Babcock responded. “Players are often waiting for a certain kind of offer. I know our discussions prior to camp just didn’t work out, but (May) has been skating, he’s ready, he’s going tomorrow.

“They (general manager Ken Holland and the hockey office) basically said ‘he’s available, do you want him’? I said yes, I pushed for him four years ago.”

May is 37 and well past his epoch of 300 penalty minutes a season. He was skating on his own in the Toronto area, awaiting a shot with a team, while enrolling his 13-year-old son Tyler and 10-year-old daughter Samantha in Toronto-area schools after finally moving from Anaheim

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Toronto GM Brian Burke, May’s boss in Vancouver and Anaheim, brought him in soon after taking full control of the Leafs in January to address obvious shortcomings in team toughness. May played 38 games, scored once and had 61 penalty minutes, but was quick to say today that Burke’s decision to go with younger men such as winger Colton Orr and defenceman Garnet Exelby was not the prime motivating factor in trying out for the Wings.

“That’s between Brian and I,” May said. “I had some wonderful conversations with Brian (after the season), but we both know where I am today. It’s not like I got booted in the ass out of there.

“He’s building something, The moves he made in the summer were terrific. It was really neat to go back and play in Toronto, because I’m from there. They’re an organization on the up side.”

May knows all about the Wings’ strengths in areas such as hitting, relentless puck possession and pursuit and crashing the net, but says he’s a little too old a leopard to change all his spots.

“If I get added to this group, I just have to do what I do,” he said. “Looking around this room is exciting, but I can’t get caught up in that. I know what my role is.

“It’s not just fighting, I can play this game, too. But because other guys don’t (fight), that’s irrelevant to me. I know what I have to do.”


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