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MAKING THE GRADE

Like most professional hockey players, David McIntyre is a student of the game. He's more than willing to put in the hard work necessary to graduate to the next level.

Story and photo by Mark Newman
 
High test scores do not guarantee success in the real world any more than hockey statistics hold the promise of championships.
 
Numbers do lie.
 
It's the lucky player who learns that the value of his contributions on the ice cannot be measured purely in points. Getting goals and assists are a worthy pursuit, but they do not solely determine the development or even the long-term potential of a player any more than good grades can mark someone as the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.
 
"It's about being a complete player," Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill said. "We want winning hockey players in this organization, not just point-getters. Certainly points are part of it, but so is being responsible defensively and being hard to play against."
 
So when the Griffins started looking to add depth at the center position this past summer, Blashill wanted a smart, experienced player who was hungry for success and willing to work hard for another chance at the NHL – a player like David McIntyre.
 
Blashill knew McIntyre as a good college player – he was a Hobey Baker finalist at Colgate University – but he also remembered him from last season, when McIntyre and his Houston Aeros gave the Griffins all they could handle during the Calder Cup playoffs.
 
"I had heard good things from my contacts in college hockey, that he had good offensive abilities, that he cared a lot about winning, and that he played really hard," Blashill said. "I saw all three of those things when he was in Houston in the playoffs. He was one of the guys who stood out because of how hard he played and how hard he was to play against."
 
McIntyre registered 15 goals and 18 assists playing for the Minnesota Wild's American Hockey League affiliate last season. More significantly, his plus-minus was an impressive +19, by far the best number on a strong team. It showed that he could be responsible defensively as well as a threat on offense.
 
With the Aeros relocating to Iowa during the off-season, McIntyre was already prepared to move. The idea of playing for the defending Calder Cup champions was appealing, and the chance to come to the Detroit Red Wings organization made his decision that much easier.
 
"Detroit is an organization that every other team would like to emulate. They have a history of winning and a history of developing their players, and I think they both go hand-in-hand," McIntyre said.
 
"When I came to this organization, I came for two reasons: I want to win and I want to develop as a player. My experience here is only going to better me as a player and as a person. Hopefully, it's a way to get me back to where I want to be, and that's the NHL."
 
McIntyre saw action in seven NHL games two seasons ago when he tallied a goal and assist for the Wild. "It was bittersweet for me, because after you play seven games, you want to play many, many more than seven," he said.
 
He hopes hard work will help him graduate to the NHL again.
 
"The one thing my father always told me was 'If you work hard, good things will happen.' In other words, if you want something bad enough, then go out and get it. That's the message I grew up with and that's how I live now."
 
Growing up in Pefferlaw, a small town about 90 kilometers northeast of Toronto, McIntyre had the concept of dedication, commitment and hard work ingrained into his very being.
 
"My parents demanded good grades, and it was something they preached to my sister and me when we were growing up," he said, admitting that his focus produced good grades, but his mind was often on hockey. "When the time came for the OHL draft (in 2003), I made a deal that if I got drafted in the first round, I would consider both options. If not, I would go to college."
 
In the end, the only real decision was which college. The Belleville Bulls selected him in the 13th round (252nd overall).
 
Having drawn the interest of several colleges, he made official visits to Niagara University and Rochester Institute of Technology, then toured the campuses of Colgate University and Dartmouth College during the same weekend.
 
"I had lined up a visit to St. Cloud State for the coming week, but there was something about Colgate that kept drawing me back," he said. "Coming from a small town, I knew that I would love that it was a small school. I really liked the campus, the coaching staff and the fact that I could get a full athletic scholarship.
 
"When I picked Colgate, I had no trouble seeing myself spend four years there."
 
McIntyre excelled at the school, both in the classroom and on the ice. He made hockey all-star teams and was selected for the ECAC All-Academic Team. His most productive season was his junior year when he was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award and garnered several First-Team All-American honors.
 
Ironically, his NHL rights were traded twice during the season. The Dallas Stars, who selected him in the fifth round (138th overall pick) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, dealt him to the Anaheim Ducks, who traded him to the New Jersey Devils less than two months later.
 
"That was crazy – I certainly didn't expect it," he said. "Thankfully, it didn't affect me in any way directly, although subconsciously you wonder if there's something wrong, and you wonder if a team really wants you. You battle with those two things in your head over and over again, and at the end of the day, you probably don't find out the answer.
 
"All you can do is control what you can as a hockey player, and that's your performance."
 
McIntyre eventually began his pro career with the New Jersey Devils' AHL affiliate in Lowell but was traded again, this time to Minnesota, with whom he would not only make his NHL debut, but would also score his first NHL goal.
 
"The highlight wasn't necessarily that first goal," he said. "I got to play in Toronto, which was exciting and close enough that my family and a lot of friends from high school could watch. I also got to witness (Wild teammate) Matt Cullen's 1,000th game, which was pretty cool to see and experience."
 
After two seasons in the Wild organization, McIntyre decided to pick up his stakes one more time this past summer.
 
McIntyre admits that the adjustment has been more difficult than he expected. First off, there was the small matter of the weather. Living in Texas, he had forgotten what it was like to scrape ice and snow off his car every day. He also struggled with his play a bit, finding his instincts didn't always mesh with the systems played by the Griffins.
 
"He's still getting comfortable in the way we play," Blashill said. "Now, with all the injuries and call ups, he's getting more opportunities, and we think he's beginning to show his true game."
 
Blashill salutes McIntyre's professionalism and leadership. Those are things in which the 27-year-old center takes great pride.
 
"Someday I would like to be a head coach at a Division I school," said McIntyre, who majored in educational studies at Colgate. "l enjoy being a leader. There are always first-, second- and even third-year players who want to listen and learn, and I try to be a good role model. I try to find ways to inspire teammates who are struggling or give a pat on the back to those guys who are playing unbelievably well."
 
While McIntyre has been working hard to adapt to his new team, he also has been soaking up everything he can for the day when he steps behind the bench.
 
"The messages here are nothing but positive. They want you to work hard and have good habits when you show up to the rink every day. The coaches want us to focus on getting better, and that's the goal of every person in our locker room.
 
"We all want to win, and everyone understands that last year is over. This is a new year and while we have a good team, we have to make sure we put in the effort because you can't live off what happened last year. The message that gets preached here is just stick to the process and keep trying to better yourself every day.
 
"That's good advice, whether you're playing hockey or working an office job."


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