Jimmy Howard Ready For To Write Next NHL Chapter
It came as no surprise to people around the NHL, on Thursday, when Detroit Red Wings General Manager Steve Yzerman announced in a pre-draft press conference that “We will be looking in the free agent market for a goaltender. I’ve spoken with Jimmy Howard, we are not going to offer him a contract prior to the free agency period."
And it will come at no surprise if Ogdensburg's Howard signs with another team, hopefully for a Stanley Cup contender, and then reinvents himself after a throw-way season with Red Wings and contributes in a backup or starting role as a team leader and mentor for young players. Over the long history of the league elite goalies like Howard have thrived late in their careers in the right situation after moving on to a new team.
It is not uncommon and just part of the business professional sports, often dictated by cap space, when franchises part company with players who have enjoyed historic careers.
A few days before Howard's release the New York Rangers bought out the final year on the contract of one of the franchise's all-time greats in goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Several other well-know netminders were also expected to become free agents according to news reports.
In fact it is rare when a player of the highest quality wear only one uniform in the course of his career: Tom Brady is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Michael Jordan bowed out as Washington Wizard and even Babe Ruth didn't retire in the iconic pinstripes of the New York Yankees.
At 36 Howard is anything but ancient as NHL goaltenders go and should be extremely rested after the COVID-19 shortened NHL season which ended on March 12 for the Red Wings who posted the worst record in the league with only 17 wins. In a forgettable season for all involved in Detroit where he was victimized by defensive breakdowns, Howard won just two games, a definite abberation for the second round pick in the 2003 NHL Draft by the Red Wings.
Ever since Howard excelled in a tryout to become a Junior B goaltender at age 14, he has met every challenge of his career as a go-to goalie and a standup guy.
After earning All-American honors at the University of Maine, Howard who is the son of Jim Howard of Ogdensburg and Lynda Hilton Howard of Oswego compiled 246 career NHL victories (246-196-70 with a save percentage of .912 and goals against average of 2.62) to rank third among all-time among Red Wings’ goalies. His 543 NHL games played is seventh among all American goalies all-time.
Howard was a member of the 2014 U.S.A. Olympic, is a three-time NHL All-Star and Calder Trophy runner-up in 2010. He also represented his country with class in several international tournament.
In his career with the Red Wings Howard became one of the faces of the franchise and was highly respected for his genuine humility, for his play on the ice and for his contributions to the community as a role model for youth.
Howard also continues to give back to his native Ogdensburg and the ice rink in the Richard Lockwood Arena bears his name.
"He not only played hockey for the DRW, he donated so much to the Children’s Hospital. He would visit the sick children during the year and during the holidays. One story that stands out he told me is, he was playing on the floor with a sick 2 year little guy and everyone was ready to leave. The little boy didn’t want Jimmy to leave and Jimmy yelled “ I’ll catch up with you in a minute guys!” This little boy with a toy car had stolen Jimmy’s heart, just like Jimmy stole mine 36 years ago. Yep my friends, that’s my boy! ", said Lynda Hilton Howard in a facebook post today.
Before being released by the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard made it crystal clear that he was not retiring in an interview with Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada/Sportnet.
“Someone is going to have to tell me I can’t play anymore,” said Howard to Friedman and also related that he had been training hard for two months.
In a story in the Detroit News in June Howard
said “I want to keep playing. This year left such a bitter taste in my mouth. I want to go out there and show people I can still play in this league – I know I’m capable.”
But he also expressed his disappointment that it looked like he would not play his entire career in the Red Wings' organization.
“I love this state, this city, and this city is home to us now. I would want to finish my career a Red Wing. But at the same time, I’ve been around this game long enough to realize there comes a time when you have to separate ties. If that’s the way it’ll have to go, I’ve mentally prepared for that. My wife and I have talked about it a little bit, and if that’s going to be the case, it’ll have to be the case," said Howard who posted a career best 0.927 save percentage in 2016-17.