Booth thankful to be back home
Native Detroiter David Booth: It was “so cool … to have this arena, city, kind of cheering for you.”
David Booth's hockey career has come full circle.
The native Detroiter grew up rooting for the Red Wings while he was playing AAA hockey for HoneyBaked.
Now, as an NHL veteran working to continue his career, Booth is a Red Wing.
He doesn't play often – so far only six of 24 of Detroit's games – but the left wing was in the lineup Nov. 25 against the New Jersey Devils. And although Detroit lost 4-3 in overtime, Booth scored his first two goals of the season and as a Red Wing.
“It’s pretty special. It’s been a long career, ups and downs, and I think a lot of people had kind of given up on me. At times I had given up on myself," Booth said after the game. "But my family, my wife, I know God has never given up on me. So it was really cool just to come out here and help contribute tonight.
“Being in and out of the lineup, just really enjoying being here, coming to the rink every day, being very grateful for this opportunity to play for the Detroit Red Wings. So it’s been awesome.”
The previous day was his 33rd birthday.
Booth made the Red Wings this season from a professional tryout in training camp.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I stood a chance," he said. "They say have self-confidence and believe in yourself. You can say that but in the end, God has a bigger picture and I think he wanted me here. Like I said, I still worked hard, I still wanted to give it my all, but I thought the reality of the situation was they have such a deep team here, they have such good players. But again, just the encouragement from my family, my wife, has meant a lot to me.”
His work ethic has been noticed.
"He stays with it. He works so hard every day. Got to be one of the hardest-working guys I’ve been around," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "If you asked our players, they’d say the same thing. He’s got a positive attitude. It’s a bit of a lesson to lots of people. When you sit out lots, it’s easy to get down and feel sorry for yourself and do those types of things. All he did was make sure he was ready when he got a chance."
Said captain Henrik Zetterberg: "He keeps himself busy off the ice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. He doesn’t get a lot of games, but he probably is the hardest-working guy on the team."
Blashill was asked if Booth has earned more playing time.
"Correct," the coach answered.
Booth talked about his motivation to work hard.
"There’s been a Bible verse that’s been really close to me. It says whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, it’s working for the Lord and not for men," he said. "It’s always stuck with me. You just got to do it when no one’s watching. So that’s kind of been my motivation, to give back here. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity that Detroit’s given me."
Booth played four seasons at Michigan State – 2002-03 to 2005-06 – and was taken by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the 2004 NHL Draft (53rd overall pick). After finishing his career at MSU, he played only 25 games in the American Hockey League in 2006-07 before the Panthers called him up.
Booth remained with Florida, where he topped 20 goals three times with a high of 31 in 2008-09, until the 2011-12 season, when he was dealt to the Vancouver Canucks. Booth moved on to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014-15.
But he couldn't find an NHL job the next two seasons. He had unsuccessful professional tryouts in training camps with Anaheim and Florida in 2015 and 2016 and so spent those years in the Russian Kontinental Hockey League.
"Quite honestly, I thought if anything, those PTOs in Anaheim and Florida, I thought I had a much better chance of making it (than with Detroit),” he said. “I thought I played well but it didn’t work out. So it led to two years in Russia, which were very tough years but very good for realizing how good we have it here in America."
Booth's first goal last Saturday night came just 34 seconds into the game on a tip-in. His second came 8:16 into the third period and tied the game at 3-3.
“It was unbelievable, it really was. … Our family’s had season tickets for 30 years and been front row for when they won the Stanley Cup," Booth said. "So this brings back very good memories. You kind of feel like it’s surreal at certain times, it’s not really happening. That was so cool to hear that and to have this arena, city, kind of cheering for you.”
It wasn't lost on Booth what holiday had just passed.
"We just celebrated Thanksgiving, and I think sometimes we get lost in just how good we have it," he said. "So take a step back and just be thankful for what we have. (It) really puts things in perspective.”