Traverse City — The reason is actually pretty simple as to why David Booth is here.
He’s an NHL player with 502 games played, has been a 31-goal scorer in the league, and could return to Russia for a third season in the KHL.
But it was different being in Russia. It was just Booth and his wife — no other family. It was also not much fun.
That’s why Booth is here in Traverse City, on a professional tryout with his hometown Red Wings — he grew up in Washington Township — attempting to latch on to the roster, on the longest of longshots.
And it’s all fun again.
“That’s why I said coming back and having fun, you lose the sense of fun for hockey when you’re over there,” Booth said after a practice at Centre Ice Arena. “I had no North Americans on my team last year (with Avangard Omsk), so you lose that camaraderie. The coaches didn’t speak English. Not many players did, either. No one in the city did.
“So it’s just you and your wife, and you form a close relationship there. But hockey is meant to be fun, and that’s why we played it as kids. Coming back here, that’s why I wanted to do this.”
There are few, if any, openings on the Red Wings roster — pending the return of unsigned Andreas Athanasiou — so Booth also is looking to impress other NHL teams who are taking a peak and seeing if the 6-foot 212-pound 32-year-old winger can still help a team.
Booth has scored 120 goals and has 111 assists (232 points) in those 502 games, after being second-round pick in 2004 coming out of Michigan State.
The long odds of making the Red Wings roster doesn’t bother Booth.
“I understand that coming in here, and that’s something that it’s better to take a chance than not to take a chance,” Booth said. “I’ve had a good career. I’ve played over 500 games, I’ve been to Russia; I want to give it one more chance. This is a good way to do that, coming home and really just having fun.
Through the course of the year you have ups and down and lose a sense of fun. But coming here and having fun and being a kid again and going out there and skating with (Henrik) Zetterberg and those guys, it’s kind of cool to be here.
“You never know. I understand that when you come in on a tryout you have two games, really, and most guys are just getting back and getting their conditioning and timing back. This is my 13th camp, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone come and earn a spot, so I understand that. But it still motivates me a little bit, to try and earn a spot.”
In his few days skating in training camp thus far, Booth has relished the opportunity to wear a Red Wings jersey and has a better understanding of why the organization has been as successful as it’s been.
“This organization has a reputation of winning and you can tell that from the way they run things,” Booth said. “We had tough years in Florida, never made the playoffs, and my last year in Toronto, we didn’t make the playoffs. So when you’re around those (atmospheres) and coming here and seeing how the Red Wings organization is from top to bottom, there’s that sense you’re expected to win every day and they do everything in this organization to do that, from the training to the medical.
“It’s real cool to see that and just the mindset around here.”
Coach Jeff Blashill sees having Booth and PA Parenteau, another veteran forward in camp on a tryout, as opportunities to watch both players without any sort of commitments.
Blashill feels Booth’s attributes can help any team.
“David has been a real good player in the league,” Blashill said. “He’s somebody who can skate, he’s physical, and plays an all-around game. It’ll be interesting to get a look and see what he looks like in the exhibition season.”