Danny Grant was a New Brunswick legend.
When he passed away last Thanksgiving, his memory was celebrated by an outpouring of affection from his hometown of Fredericton to Montreal, Minnesota, Detroit, Los Angeles and other centres where Grant played and prospered as a professional hockey player.
It wasn’t just Grant’s exploits at the NHL level that made him so popular.
He was from Fredericton and proud of it, returning in the summers when he could have stayed in the NHL city that employed him.
Whether it was to run his popular summer hockey schools or just ensuring he was with his family and friends, Grant was an outstanding community contributor.
As a lasting tribute to Grant’s memory, the Fredericton Red Wings will retire his No. 21 to the rafters during Thursday’s Maritime Hockey League game against the visiting Summerside Capitals.
The Red Wings, back at the junior A level for the first time in 40 years this winter, will have Grant’s family members at an arena that bears his name, the Grant*Harvey Centre. Grant was instrumental in playing a role in reviving the junior A franchise in his hometown, but sadly, never got to see them play a game.
His jersey will be retired in the building that bears his name and long-time friend and NHL teammate, the later Buster Harvey. Danny Grant appealed to City Council, and informed them, his name would not go up on the arena unless his friend Buster was beside him, that is just who Danny Grant was.
The ceremony will also be a part of the first Red Wings alumni celebration. The Red Wings are asking any former players who wore Fredericton colours and played for the junior program to come and celebrate the special evening. A Team picture to remember will be taken following the game with former and present.
Fredericton hosts the No. 4 team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings when the powerful Capitals come to town for a 7 p.m. start.
Tony Grant, Danny’s younger brother, said his family was truly inspired when the Red Wings and President Roger Shannon reached out with the news the team would be honouring Grant. The evening will also be special, considering Grant’s long-time friend, Frank Jardine, will receive the Wings’ Community Hero Award.
‘We are truly honoured that Roger and the Fredericton Red Wings are paying a special tribute to Danny,’ said Tony. ‘We are pleased that Red Wing alumni from the 60 ‘s and 70’s will also be attending on this special night. Danny never forgot where he came from. He gave back to the community after he retired from the NHL by coaching at the midget, senior and university levels and was instrumental in bringing the Fredericton Express of the AHL to town serving as president. He even played a few games. Though many saw Danny as a Fredericton Icon, those who knew him well, knew him as simply Danny. Danny has left a huge void in our family circle and is sadly missed.’
Grant left home at 16 to play in the Ontario Hockey Association with the Peterborough Petes, skating there for four seasons.
He compiled 262 points with the Petes before catching the eye of the fabled Montreal Canadiens, the franchise he made his NHL debut with in 1965-66, appearing in a single game.
The offensive-minded Grant then spent a season in the Central Professional Hockey League with Montreal’s affiliate before playing in 22 games in 1967-68 that included 10 playoff games and a Stanley Cup ring following a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues.
He was dealt to the Minnesota North Stars during that off-season and Grant flourished, playing six seasons and establishing himself as a legitimate marksman through 1973-74.
A stunning trade for Minnesota native Henry Boucha sent Grant to Detroit, where he exploded for 50 goals in his first season in the Motor City.
Injuries hampered Grant toward the end of his career when he finished with the Los Angeles Kings, retiring from the NHL after the 1978-79 season. He would amass 535 points over 736 games.
Shannon was a starstruck kid growing up in a small community Nasonworth, where Danny had moved Linda and his children to settle on their beautiful farm property.
There was never an air of forgetting the roots where he came from and that certainly meant taking time for children who looked up to the NHL star.
‘Danny Grant was a giant to me, he was bigger than life,’ recalled Shannon. ‘When he drove in my yard, or as we call it here in New Brunswick my dooryard, I thought I was in the presence of true superstar, and I was. To be able to be part of something that honours the life of Danny is an honour in itself. Danny would drive around in his beautiful cars, show up at the Nasis arena, and teach us kids in the summer. He made us all feel that someday we would be just as good and as big as him, boy was I off on that one.’
The Red Wings joined the MHL this year and carried on the nickname in recognition of Grant’s early years in the NHL with Detroit. ‘Shannon says, Danny and I sat in his kitchen and planned out how to revive the wings and get permission we needed from the big team, it wasn’t very difficult with Danny’s help when a 50-goal scorer calls the team “
Although generations removed from his offensive exploits, Grant was right there with Hall of Fame players like Phil Esposito and Guy LaFleur when it came to finding the back of the net.
‘The 50-goal mark is still a celebrated feat in today’s NHL despite all the trends towards offence and we were all swept up in Danny’s march toward that milestone,’ said Shannon. ‘It was such an exciting time to see a local person reach those heights. I believe Danny is the greatest NHLer we have ever produced from New Brunswick. His affiliation with junior hockey in Fredericton and the Red Wing connections are the blood that runs through our new organization. We have a great opportunity to celebrate the life and career of Danny Grant in an arena co-named after him in a city that loved him. There is so much history surrounding Danny. He was one of our own and he continued to give back to this community long after he retired. We lost a legend when we lost Danny.’
Grant’s wife, Linda, daughter Kelly, granddaughter Jordan and watching from British Columbia, his son Jeff, will be a part of the event.
Tony Grant is scheduled to be pat of the Red Wing on-ice honour guard during the ceremony, joining George Miles, Chris Mabie, Wayne Hallihan, Gordie Wheaton and Fred Rowan, all former members of the junior program and all great friends of Danny Grant.