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10/20/2007 12:01 AM -

Brett Engelhardt has been a winner in life. Now, with a change of scenery, he’s hoping to win a little more frequently on the ice.

Griffins right winger Brett Engelhardt is nothing if not honest. “I’m a terrible practice player,” he announced to no one in particular after a recent session, as the team was preparing to open the 2007-08 season. “For me, it’s almost counterproductive.”

For the record, Engelhardt was exaggerating. He also doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. “It’s not like I’m saying it’s not important. I couldn’t do without practice. It’s just that if you watched practice, you probably wouldn’t think I could do much.”

The Griffins can attest to Engelhardt’s game-playing abilities. Playing for the Toronto Marlies last season, the Michigan Tech graduate tallied nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) in eight games against the Griffins.

It was a big summer for Engelhardt. Before signing a free agent contract with the Detroit Red Wings, he got married on the beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica on July 6.

Why Jamaica?
“Neither one of us wanted the big wedding back home. We wanted a small wedding with a few close friends and family. We had 15 people, plus us. The weather was unbelievable, and it was a trip we’ll never forget.”

How did the two of you meet?
“I met Ronda (Curtin) through my old college roommate (Justin Brown) who was dating her old college roommate (Winny Brodt). They got married this past summer, too, so it worked out for all of us.”

Your wife is self-employed. What does she do?
“She runs a summer-long hockey camp for girls in Minneapolis (with Winny). It’s pretty impressive to see what they’ve done with it. There aren’t many camps like it for girls.

“Ronda was a two-time All-American at the University of Minnesota. She’s a better hockey player than I am, relatively speaking. She doesn’t criticize my playing, but she’ll laugh hysterically if I do something stupid.”

You’re from Sheyboygan, Wisconsin. Are you a big Packers fan?
“Huge! I played two years of junior hockey in Green Bay, so I got to see a few games. My billets (hosts) had these great season tickets on the 50-yard line, right behind the benches. Her dad used to be a statistician for the team. It was really cool to watch Brett Favre play there.”

How did you end up attending Michigan Tech?
“Of all the Division I schools (that recruited me), it was probably the closest, about a 4-1/2 hour drive from home. I loved it there. People thought the school might be too small, but I thought it was an absolute blast. You wish those days never ended.”

On the questionnaire that the Griffins have players fill out at the start of the season, you claimed seafood was your least favorite food. You wrote, “If it lived in water, I hate it!!” Looks like you won’t be doing any endorsements for Red Lobster.
“My wife doesn’t stop trying to get me to like seafood. It drives me nuts. She’ll say, ‘Try this. You’ll like it.’ I try, but... nothing. I can choke it down if I have to.”

You spent the last three years in the Maple Leafs’ system, playing the past two seasons with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. Did you like Toronto?
“It was a great experience. The organization helped me out a lot, which I appreciated because the first few years are always the hardest. I enjoyed Toronto a lot. It’s very diversified – you get to meet so many people from different cultures and that’s something the city is proud of.”

You scored 25 goals last season, which was more than double the dozen you had the previous year. Was it a result of more ice time?
“I got a little more ice time because of injuries to other players, but I think it’s also a result of learning the game. You start seeing the ice (better) and it seems like everything slows down.”

Did you follow the Red Wings when you played at Michigan Tech?
“Because of the local coverage, I watched them a lot. I always loved how everybody had defined roles, whether it was (Darren) McCarty, (Tomas) Holmstrom, (Kris) Draper or (Sergei) Fedorov.

“Obviously, it’s a very historic franchise, plus they always win. Grand Rapids usually has good teams, too. That’s why I’m looking forward to this season. I had some tough years in college as far as winning goes. I desperately want to win games on a regular basis.”

Special Olympics is one of your favorite charities. Any reason?
“My dad was a gym teacher who worked with the mentally and physically handicapped, and I went to school with him sometimes. He was really good with them and it was fun for me to watch how they interacted.

“I did a marathon this past summer to raise money for Special Olympics and in Toronto, I went once a week to what was basically an open gym. We played different sports and hung out and did different things with them.

“They enjoy everything so much. Some of them are like kids forever and it seems like there is no bad in them. You do things together and it’s a lot of fun. To see their faces light up is one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

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Grand Rapids Griffins
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Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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