WINNIPEG -- It took Brad May most of 19 seasons as a pro hockey player before he got his first taste of the minors and itís been easier to swallow than he might have thought.
The long-time NHL forward was a salary-cap casualty after the Detroit Red Wings got healthy and now has eight games under his belt with the Grand Rapids Griffins, who wrapped up their season series with the Manitoba Moose on Sunday afternoon.
ďYou know what, I didnít set out to come here but Detroit had to make some room,Ē said May. ďWith that being said, itís a good experience for me. Iíve never played in the minors.
ďYou can take it one of two ways ó either be miserable or enjoy the experience. The guys are good guys, aspiring to play in the NHL. Itís a dose of reality. Iíve been living the good life for a long, long time. I havenít taken my eye off the ball though, hopefully Iíll get back to Detroit.Ē
Should the Red Wings qualify for the playoffs in the tight Western Conference, itís a good bet the 38-year-old will join them.
May scored his first AHL goal on Friday and is taking on more of a offensive role after spending much of the past decade as a checker.
ďWith an expanded role, you get yourself back in hockey shape. And itís confidence too,Ē May said.
ďYou handle the puck and youíre carrying it more and youíre remembering how to play the game. I liken it to the old electric dog collar. I havenít been able to run out of my backyard for many years. Now I donít have the collar on.Ē
May split last season between Anaheim and Toronto and has 1,041 NHL games on his resume to go with 127 goals, 288 points and 2,248 penalty minutes.
He played 40 games with the Wings this year after getting the call late in training camp.
ďIf I hadnít been in shape and skating every day, the opportunity comes and goes and youíre done. I was ready and itís a lesson Iíve learned. If you want something, donít stop. Donít quit,Ē he said.
May has a connection to the Winnipeg Jets, who flipped draft picks with Buffalo in the deal for Dale Hawerchuk. The Sabres moved up and selected May 14th overall, while the Jets got Keith Tkachuk at No. 17.
ďI saved Buffalo a lot of money,Ē May chuckled. ďIt worked out great for me and Buffalo canít say they had a bad (pick). Keith Tkachuk turned into an incredible player, but I laugh at it because I saved Buffalo a lot of money.Ē
May didnít enjoy the same offensive totals as Tkachuk but did score one of the most memorable goals in Sabresí history ó a series-clincher in the 1993 Adams Division semifinal against the Boston Bruins, complete with the signature call of May-Day from Sabresí announcer Rick Jeanneret.
ďItís certainly my nickname now,Ē said May. ďItís something they can never take away.Ē