By Michael Caples –
Yesterday, the ECHL’s Florida Everblades announced that they have signed Dearborn native Brian Rafalski to a contract, indicating that the former Red Wings defenseman wants to return to the NHL.
Rafalski, 40, retired from professional hockey at the conclusion of the Red Wings’ 2010-11 season.
Everblades coach Greg Poss told the Marco Island Sun Times that Rafalski, who was already serving as team chaplain for the Everblades, wanted to return to action after competing in the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park on New Year’s Eve.
“He played in the Winter Classic alumni game and got the bug,” Poss said. “He wants to play in the NHL again.”
MiHockey caught up with Rafalski after the Alumni Showdown contest, and he didn’t mention anything about a potential return.
The former NHL star – who is cleared to play in tonight’s Everblades game against the South Carolina Stingrays – said he enjoyed the experience, but no hints about a potential return.
“It was fun, it was great,” Rafalski said. “Great atmosphere, playing with some of the players I grew up watching as a young boy in Detroit, haven’t had a chance to play with some of them. I played against some, but some of these other guys, it was a great experience.”
Rafalski did allude to the fact that he was on the younger side of the Alumni Showdown roster when asked about being a hometown kid getting to play at the Tigers’ ballpark.
“Like I said, all these great players, I just wanted to go out there, I’m fortunate that I’m young enough where I’ll have maybe another opportunity to do this again,” Rafalski said. “But the older guys, it was a good experience for them, and we tried to give them chances and opportunities out there.”
MiHockey will be keeping an eye on the ECHL scoreboard tonight to see if Rafalski does indeed suit up for the Everblades. According to Ansar Khan of MLive.com, the Wings granted Rafalski’s release last week, since he was still technically property of the club after his early retirement. If he progresses through the ECHL to the AHL, the Wings would be a team interested in his services, according to Khan.