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Pickard Brings Veteran Presence to Griffins

Story by Derek Patterson

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Two years ago, goaltender Calvin Pickard signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings. Since then, he has been the key goaltender for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the primary affiliate of Detroit.

During this 2021-22 campaign, Pickard has been between the pipes in 20 of the 23 Griffins' games and has solidified himself as one of the top goaltenders in the AHL. Pickard has played in a career-best 16 consecutive games, which he set from Nov.5- Dec. 22. The netminder is fifth on the circuit with a save percentage of 0.927, and his 2.44 goals against average is tied for 11th in the league. He is also tied for sixth in the AHL with nine wins.

The Moncton, New Brunswick, native first broke into professional hockey in 2010 when he was the Colorado Avalanche’s second-round draft choice. Since then, he has played for eight different franchises between the AHL and NHL. Pickard has seen how different systems work, but his experience with the Red Wings has been a particularly enjoyable one.

“My experience has been great with the Red Wings. I've played against [Detroit] in the NHL and played a lot of games against the Griffins,” Pickard said. “I was excited for a new organization and a fresh start. I’ve been treated very well since day one here. The staff, players and the fans are great.”

One of Pickard’s favorite things about the Red Wings has been the easy transition when he first arrived and the professionalism that the organization carries at all levels of competition.

“I’ve definitely been with my fair share of organizations, and a couple of them try to make you into something that you’re not,” Pickard explained. “But when I came over here, they treated me like a true professional from day one. For the most part they make sure I’m ready and comfortable going into each game and that’s where I’ve earned most of my success.”

Having played 113 games in the NHL and 255 in the AHL, Pickard has seen the big differences from style of play in each league.

“In terms of AHL and NHL, you have the high-end skill in the NHL, it's a little more predictable,” Pickard said. “The AHL has a ton of good players as well; there's a few guys filtering in and out with a lot of chaos and it's a younger league with a lot of good prospects.”

The beginning and height of the COVID-19 pandemic created a struggle for everyone around the world, including pro athletes. Some players, like Pickard, took the opportunity to play professionally overseas, where some pro leagues were still having a season.

“In December 2020 I had the opportunity to go over to Europe because there were leagues playing there, and I had about a month and a half to get ready,” Pickard said. “I took the opportunity to go overseas and get my game in order before coming back last season. There were pretty intense protocols, but then it just became normal after a while.”

Having only played in Europe for the Vienna Capitals in Austria for six games in 2020, Pickard took the opportunity to go there to stay in hockey shape and get ready for the season in North America.

“It was a good opportunity for me. The head coach in Vienna has a world championship with team Canada,” Pickard said. “They had a goalie go away for world juniors, so they had an opening and I had a connection there. So, they brought me over to play six games in December. It was a great mini training camp while prepping for the Red Wings’ training camp.”

When Pickard arrived in Vienna, he saw some familiar faces and felt instantly welcomed by everyone in the organization.

“There were a couple guys I played against in the minors leading up to it. So, over the years you learn those names and build those connections,” Pickard commented. “They treated me very well, the North Americans were great and the Austrian guys were awesome as well. Everyone was a good person from the staff to the players and coaches.”

Pickard, now in his third season with Grand Rapids, has been a workhorse for the team and continues to be a mentor to younger players working their way through the Red Wings’ organization.

Photo by Mark Newman/Griffins

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