Lashoff ‘gave everything I had since day one’

Photo: Nicolas Carrillo

📝 by Patrick Williams

Brian Lashoff’s pro career started with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

It ended with them as well.

And save for his 144 regular-season and Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Detroit Red Wings, he never left Grand Rapids either.

Undrafted coming out of the Ontario Hockey League, Lashoff signed as a free agent with Detroit in October 2008 and then made his AHL debut on March 29, 2009, at age 18.

After 629 AHL games, all with Grand Rapids, Lashoff, 32, skated into retirement on Friday night at a sold-out Van Andel Arena. He ranks third in AHL history in games played among players who spent their entire careers with one club. He won two Calder Cups with the Griffins, and was chosen to captain the Western Conference at the AHL All-Star Classic earlier this season.

Friday was declared “Brian Lashoff Day” by Grand Rapids mayor Rosalynn Bliss. Naturally, Griffins head coach Ben Simon had Lashoff in the starting lineup, paired with a rookie, Jeremie Biakabutuka, who was playing just his second pro game ever. The night wrapped up when he was announced as the game’s first star.

“It means everything to me,” Lashoff told the Grand Rapids media after the game. “I gave everything I have to this organization for a long time, and to be received like that and sent out like that, what a validation and satisfaction.”

Said Simon, “He was able to finish his career on his own terms, which you don’t often get to do. [Teammates] have left here as better players because they’ve been around him.”

Before his final spin on the Van Andel Arena ice, Lashoff spoke with the media on his career, hockey’s lessons, retirement, and what might be next:

“I remember not having the draft year that I wanted [in 2007-08 with the OHL’s Barrie Colts]. I didn’t get drafted, and I thought maybe that I would but maybe I wouldn’t. But the draft went by, and I remember being disappointed.

“As soon as the draft ended, I got a call from my agent at the time and [got] invited to training camp with Detroit. They had just won the Stanley Cup, and there was a great opportunity. They were the only team that called, and I was thrilled to get that opportunity to go to camp with Detroit. I think of the people back then. I’m lucky enough that I’m still in the organization this many years later.”

“I think obviously the championships. I think those are the easiest things to point out. They’re some of the best moments in my life. I’ve had life-long friends from those teams.

“That’s the amazing thing about this sport. I think when you’re able to do something like that, you have a special bond with those players, guys I still keep in contact with. Those are really special moments that I’ll remember forever.

“And then I think when you get to the end you start thinking about the beginning a little bit and coming in here at such a young age and the people that kind of took me under their wing. I think of [equipment manager] Brad Thompson, [executive assistant] Kelly Pawlak in the front office, [senior public relations director] Randy Cleves, [team president] Tim Gortsema, and [broadcaster] Bob Kaser. These are people that have been here my whole career and are like family to me. When I come into the office and come to the rink every day, they believe in me.”

“There’s a lot of emotions that come to your mind when you start getting to the end of the season and your career. You start thinking about the beginning when I first came here when I was 18 and seeing the support the fan base has for the team and the city has for the team. Just all those memories, guys you played with that I’ve made life-long friendships with. You start thinking about all these people that helped get me to this point in my career where I’ve been able to stay here my whole career.”

“It’s kind of bittersweet. Going through a lot my last couple years here, I feel it’s the right time, but there’s definitely a lot of things that go through your mind thinking about the past and all the good times and good memories I’ve had here.

“I think the biggest thing for me was probably some injuries and wear and tear that I’ve accumulated over the last couple years. I’ve started to feel it on a daily basis, and has made things a little a little bit harder for me. So I think that kind of made my decision easier. I think I was going through some stuff that I tried to keep quiet in the room, and so it made it hard. But I still tried to give everything I possibly could, and I think that made the decision a little bit easier.

“I knew that it was probably time to start thinking about putting the team and the organization in a better spot, if I wasn’t going to be able to give what I had given for a long time here.”

“The only way out of any sort of adversity is through it and attack it head-on. I’ve been through probably every single scenario that any kid is going to go through. I’ve been injured. I’ve been sent down. I’ve been called up. I was undrafted, had to earn a contract. I’ve seen everything that they’re going to go through, and it can be an emotional roller coaster at times.

“Try and stay as even-keeled as possible and understand that the only way out of anything like that is to continue to push through. I think good people and hard workers will usually prevail in the end when it comes to any sort of adversity that they’re going to face.”

Photo: Nicolas Carrillo

“I just want to be remembered as someone who gave everything I had since day one. I’ve played here my whole career in one spot. I’m grateful for that, very lucky. Not a lot of guys have the ability to do that, especially in the American League.

“If I’ve had anything to do with helping young players get to the NHL, that means a ton to me. It’s something I took a lot of pride in over the second half of my career.

“And then when it comes to the games and the wars that I went through with a lot of unbelievable people and players, just that I was able to give everything I had to the team, to the organization, and the city.”

“When it comes to playing hockey for a living, I think it’s: Enjoy every day. You never know how long your career is going to be. Prove your support system right every single day. I’ve had people in this organization that have had my back and have believed in me, and I think I lived my life and my career to prove those people right. And I think if you can do that every single day, it adds up over time, and I was lucky enough to have a long, long career in one place.

“I’ve said in the past I did it for a reason. I think I’m loyal to the people that have been here for a while, and I’m loyal to the city and to the Red Wings organization. And I’ve had a lot of good people in my corner, and I just worked every day to try to prove them right.

“Those types of things you can use in the next phase to help yourself have a long career [in] whatever you do next.”

“I’ll probably take some time, for sure. I think after this many years to spend some time with my family and kind of enjoy that that aspect of things. I know I want to stay in hockey. I think I have a lot to offer in whatever I do, so I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. But there are definitely things that I can bring to the table when it comes to helping players try to get to the next level, because I’ve been through every scenario that you can throw at a player.

“We’ll talk over the next little while here and see if there’s a fit [with Detroit], and I hope there is. I have a lot of love for the organization, and the work ethic I put in as a player, that’ll be the same in whatever I do next.”