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BIG SHOT

Griffins defenseman Kyle Quincey is making noise with his cannon-like shot

Story and photo by Mark Newman

While other kids were setting up their lemonade stands to squeeze a few coins out of the neighborhood customers, Kyle Quincey had other business on his mind.

The Ontario native was in his basement, ready to squeeze his hockey stick and take another shot at earning himself some cold hard cash from his father.

“He’d give me a penny for every 100 pucks I shot,” Quincey recalls. “I was young enough to think that was awesome, so I would be down there all day, shooting to get my allowance.” Needless to say, Quincey never got rich. “I think he’d give me a dollar to encourage me,” he recalls.

That’s not to suggest that the practice didn’t pay off. Today, Quincey has one of the biggest shots among all young defensemen. At the Ontario Hockey League’s All-Star Skills Competition last year, he tied for first place in the hardest-shot event with a 95-mph blast.

But there’s more to the game of the Griffins’ rookie blueliner than a strong shot.

“He’s established himself as one of the premier young defensemen in the AHL,” says Griffins head coach Greg Ireland. “He’s been a go-to guy for us in the last minute of a game or matching up against the other team’s big line.”

In the recent absence of the injured Travis Richards and the earlier losses of Brett Lebda (Red Wings) and Andy Delmore (waivers), Quincey has played a larger role than many might have expected.

“A lot was thrown at him early and he’s responded very well,” Ireland says. “He’s played very well defensively and physically. If he continues to do those things and works hard, he’s going to give himself every opportunity to play at the next level."

If Quincey’s play has raised a few eyebrows this season, it won’t be the first time. He has a history of exceeding expectations.

“I was a late-bloomer growing up,” he says. “I was never thought of too much as a player. I get my fire from proving myself every day. I try to take some positives out of everything I do.”

Quincey was disappointed when he wasn’t selected to participate in the summer camp to put together Team Canada for the 2005 World Junior Championship.

“At the start of last season I set out to prove that I was in the top eight defensemen in the country,” Quincey says. “When I got the chance to tryout, I made it tough for them to cut me.”

Indeed, Quincey was the last cut on the team, which went on to win the gold medal for Canada for the first time since 1997.

“In the end, it was a great experience,” he says. “I got to play with some of the best 19-year-olds in the world, guys like (Sidney) Crosby, (Patrice) Bergeron and (Jeff) Carter.

“I had probably the most fun month of my career. Playing for Team Canada was probably my biggest dream growing up, and I have to say I felt part of that team.”

Quincey already knew what it was like to be overlooked. Heading into his draft year, he was virtually ignored. “No one phoned me and I didn’t have one interview,” he recalls. “I was rated very low.”

So he got the shock of his life when the Red Wings selected him with their second pick (#132 overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. “To be drafted by a great organization like Detroit is remarkable.”

Getting to participate in the Wings’ training camp with veterans like Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Mathieu Schneider was a golden opportunity for a young defenseman.

“I tried to be a sponge there, just like I do here,” Quincey says. “I want to try to learn as much as I can. Every day I come to the rink, I want to get better.”

Quincey got his first taste of the NHL in late November when he saw action in one game. On Thanksgiving, he found himself surrounded by Wings, not a turkey among them.

“We went to a fancy French restaurant, which was pretty exciting,” he says. “Just to hang out with those guys, guys I grew up idolizing as a kid, was pretty neat.”

Quincey blocked a game-high three shots in his NHL debut against Anaheim. “I was more excited than nervous,” he recalls. “I just wanted to play solid and prove I could play there. I got my feet wet, which is important.”

Getting the call to join the Red Wings was music to Quincey’s ears. In the words of Tom Petty, his favorite artist, he was “Runnin’ Down A Dream.”

A classic rock fan, Quincey and his iPod are never far apart. “When my dad drove me to hockey, he would listen to Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. It just naturally became my favorite music.

“I was really interested and I would ask questions, and he taught me a lot about the music. I just fell in love with it.”

His father encouraged him to learn to play guitar, but he didn’t buy his first six-string until he signed his initial pro contract. “I should have listened to him and picked it up sooner,” he says. “I think it would have been easier to learn when I was younger.”

For now, he’s getting tips from Derek Meech and Todd Jackson, both of whom play the guitar. “I also have a buddy back home who’s really good. We hung out last summer and he tried to teach me a few things.”

Quincey, it seems, is always learning something. During his junior hockey years, he took college classes, first at the University of Western Ontario while he was playing in London and, later, at the University of Toronto, while he was playing in nearby Mississauga.

Growing up in Ontario, Quincey never played too far from home. “A lot of my family and friends came to all my games, so the support was always there.”

So were the words of advice.

His father now works in the sports apparel business, but as a former goaltender for the Kitchener Rangers, he knew enough about the game to share a few tips with Kyle and his younger brother, Kevin, who was chosen in last year’s OHL draft by the Windsor Spitfires.

“My dad didn’t sugarcoat anything and I think that’s the way it should be,” Quincey says. “It’s been the same with my coaches – no one’s babied me. To me, it’s all positive.

“Everything’s about getting better and maturing as a player and as a person, both on and off the ice. I just want to keep progressing. If you’re not progressing, you’re going backwards.”

“It’s all a matter of time. Hopefully, my next opportunity in the NHL will be a longer one and I’ll give it my best shot.”

Growing up around Toronto, Quincey made his share of pilgrimmages to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Going there, it’s something above and beyond anything you could ever imagine,” he says. “Just looking around and seeing all the great players gets you pumped up to come to the rink every day.”

Though he has to put his dreams of playing for Team Canada or even in the NHL aside for the time being, Quincey is not averse to thinking about what his current team can accomplish.

“We have a young team, so we’re only going to get better,” he says. “I’ve never seen a team be able to come back like this one – it’s been amazing.”

He’s not counting anything out, but he’s not counting his proverbial chickens either.

“Everything has been great so far,” he says. “I’m getting a lot of minutes every night and I want to run with it the best I can. I just want to reward the coach for rewarding me. I want us to keep it going."


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