Tough guy beating odds

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 5:01 AM ET

Wear and tear from an NHL career that has spanned almost two decades has Brad May cursing as he kicks off his equipment after practice.

But the Detroit Red Wings tough guy is still smiling.

For good reason, too.

Turning 38 at the end of the month, May is one of a dwindling number of veterans who have survived in a game that has already been handed over to the young.

"It is a young man's game -- it's fast," May said with a grin.

"But that's what I'm excited about. I can still do this. I can still skate. Until I can't, I can never succumb (to retirement).

"Although I do recognize that a lot of my buddies and most of my friends that I started with are not playing anymore."

Indeed, teammates like Dave Andreychuk, Dale Hawerchuk, Benoit Hogue, Alexander Mogilny, Pat LaFontaine and goalie Clint Malarchuk from May's rookie season with the Buffalo Sabres in 1991-92 have long since called it quits.

And once May -- who won his first and only Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 -- celebrated his 1,000th NHL game as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs last spring, many believed the Markham, Ont., product would do the same.

May wasn't one of them.

"I really do think other people thought that I was finished, that (the ceremony) was kind of like a cap to a good career, to be celebrated in Toronto," May said.

"It was nice -- but I wasn't ready to be done."

By the time training camps opened, it seemed as though May wouldn't have a choice.

Surviving suspensions, surgeries, countless injuries and bouts with the league's biggest bodies, it appeared Father Time was delivering the knockout blow.

Just four days before camp wrapped up, the Red Wings offered him a tryout. Before their home-opener, he had a one-year contract in front of him to be inked.

Hockey fans everywhere raised an eyebrow when the deal was announced.

Why would the Wings bring in a guy whose best days are behind him when there are so many young players pushing to get into the league?

"Why? Because I can still do this," May said with such confidence you can't help but believe it. "That's the answer.

"I can fit into a group and provide different things, which is exciting. The way I see it -- I don't want to be at all presumptuous, but -- I could help 30 teams. That's the way I approached it."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA

THREE STARS

AS CHOSEN BY SUN MEDIA

KRIS DRAPER, WINGS

Could have had a couple of markers if not for great saves by Miikka Kiprusoff.

BRAD STUART, WINGS

Finishing with a goal, the former Flames defenceman isn't flashy, but he is solid.

MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF, FLAMES

Kept team in the game with some highlight-reel saves to keep score close.


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