By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – David Booth has earned NHL professional tryouts each of the past two seasons.
He was also like every other kid who grew up playing hockey in the Metro Detroit area: he dreamed of wearing the winged wheel one day.
Now, at age 32, he has a chance to both return to the NHL and also fulfill that dream.
The Washington Township native and Michigan State alum signed a PTO with the Red Wings at the end of August after spending the last two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. As a result, he has found himself one step closer to his goal by playing in preseason games for Detroit.
“It’s awesome, it really has been,” Booth said of the experience. “Probably my most memorable training camp, my favorite training camp. It’s just really cool being part of this team and wearing the Red Wing jersey. I think every kid growing up here just wants to be a Red Wing. I still have that desire in my heart.”
In 2015, following a season with Toronto, Booth signed a PTO with the same team that drafted him 53rd overall in 2004, the Florida Panthers. When that didn’t work out, he left home for Russia to continue his career in the KHL.
In 2016, it was the same story; Anaheim offered him a tryout, but Booth ultimately wound up in the KHL again.
But neither of those results discouraged him, as he continued to play in the next best professional league. Now, he’s knocking on the NHL’s door once again.
“I’ve been on two tryouts previously; the last two years, they didn’t work, and this year you kind of struggle with, ‘Hey, is it even worth it? Is this gonna be the same old story?’ But you never know unless you try, and I think I’ve been in the best spot this training camp than the last two, so I know it’s cliché, but never give up. That’s one of the things, anything can happen.”
So far, Booth has displayed he still has the ability to compete at the NHL level. His skating, shoot-first mentality and physicality have made him a dangerous option, both on the penalty kill and as a general depth player for Detroit.
“He’s worked hard, he’s strong, he’s been physical,” Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill said. “He’s done a good job penalty killing.”
In his three preseason games, Booth has recorded 15 shots on goal, including a combined team-high 13 in the two games against Chicago.
He still has at least one more showing to make a final impression in what is a crowded forward group, as he is slated to play on the fourth line Friday night against Toronto. Blashill said both teams are dressing veteran-heavy lineups.
“He’s got another game or so to show what he’s got,” Blashill said. “We’ve got a whole group of guys vying for spots and that’s just the reality of the competitiveness of the NHL and how competitive it is today so he’ll be one of those guys vying for a spot.”
Booth spent the first five-plus seasons of his career with the Panthers, including his best offensive year in 2008-09 where he recorded 31 goals and 60 points in 72 games.
That career season put him on the radar for the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team in 2010, as he was invited to the team’s summer orientation camp. However, in the first month of the 2009-10 NHL campaign, Booth was sidelined with a concussion after a hit to the head from Philadelphia’s Mike Richards.
The injury kept him out of action until after the Olympic roster was announced in early January of 2010.
But with the NHL declining participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, it seems the stars are aligning for Booth to get a second crack at the Olympics – of course, that’s only if his tryout with the Wings doesn’t result in a NHL contract.
Booth confirmed USA Hockey has reached out to him about the scenario.
“That’s definitely a goal of mine if this doesn’t work out,” Booth said. “It’s something that would be very cool and an honor. I had the chance in 2010, but got hurt that year, so for it to come full circle eight years later would be kind of crazy.”
Come February, whether he’s donning a Red Wings sweater in Detroit, the stars and stripes in South Korea, or a KHL jersey in Russia, Booth said he can ultimately find solace in the fact he gave it his all.
“If it doesn’t work, you can always go to sleep at night knowing if you worked hard. Hard work is the most rewarding thing in life.”