Ex-Michigan State star Jeff Petry excited to get NHL season restarted with Canadiens

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Right about now, Jeff Petry is normally winding down his hockey training and getting ready for summer.

But these aren’t normal times, and this hasn’t been a normal hockey season.

Petry, thanks to the upended hockey season, and his Montreal Canadiens are getting ready for a play-in series for the NHL playoffs, likely in July.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry, an Orchard Lake St. Mary's and Michigan State product, is in his 11th NHL season.

Petry, 32, the former Orchard Lake St. Mary and Michigan State star defenseman, is getting anxious.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Petry, who still lives in West Bloomfield. “Three months ago we were playing the last 10 games of our season and it was going to be over. Obviously this whole situation isn’t anything that anybody expected, but the opportunity has come up and everyone is excited about it.”

The Canadiens will play Pittsburgh in the play-in round, and despite the Penguins being heavily favored, nobody can truly say how these series will go given the long layoff.

“Hopefully everything works out and we can get back on the ice, because it’s playoff hockey and in a normal year anything can happen in the playoffs,” Petry said. “To get that opportunity, it’s something we’re all looking forward to and excited about.”

Excited, even though the some of the circumstances will be much different than usual playoff hockey. 

Like, no fans in the rink.

"The first game will be a little unique," Petry said of playing in front of no fans. "Just to get used to that. I don't know what their plans will be. I've heard in Germany (pro soccer) they pumped in fan noise. I know when you're playing, you're not really focused on the actual individuals in the stands. It's more the sound. 

"It will be different (without fans), but it doesn't change the way you approach the game or the way you want to play."

Training camp in Montreal is expected to begin within the next few weeks, with the NHL and NHLPA announcing Thursday camps could resume July 10. The Canadiens are expected to begin voluntary skating at their practice facility by the end of the week.

With Michigan in shut-down mode the last several months, Petry hasn’t skated. He reached out to his St. Mary’s coach, Brian Klanow, but the Eaglets’ ice isn’t installed yet.

“As of right now, I’m just going to continue doing all the things that I need to do off the ice to prepare myself for when that time comes and be ready to head out (to Montreal),” Petry said. “I’m kind of treating it as summer workouts, then doing my cardio, and with the start still a little while away, I’m not too concerned about being on the ice. I know once we get back, we’ll have adequate time to get adjusted.”

'Tough' period ahead

Petry has undergone a little different way to staying in hockey shape during this pandemic, diving heavily into Pilates.

“It’s been great,” Petry said. “My wife (Julie) is the one that started out in Pilates and she’s been wanting a Reformer (Pilates equipment). She did all the research on it, and it came at a perfect time with everything shut down in the world.

“We have it in the basement and when this quarantine started, it was great to be able to just go down to the basement and and use the Reformer and it’s given me all the tools I need to stay in shape.”

Petry has found Pilates has helped his core strength and flexibility, and it’s something he’ll continue to work with during the hockey season.

“You can do as much work as you want in the gym," Petry said, "but then you get on a Reformer and it’s completely different muscle groups to stabilize muscles and it’s like no other workout I’ve done.”

Petry isn’t going to pack all his Pilates equipment with him on the nine-hour drive to Montreal when that time comes, and Julie and their three kids are staying in Michigan, too.

Montreal Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry had 40 points (11 goals) in 71 games this season.

That’s one of the aspects of re-starting this NHL season, with the 24 playoff teams going to “hub” cities to compete in the playoffs, that’s going to be a different and difficult.

Theoretically, a team that makes a deep playoff run could be away from home for possibly three months or so.

“It will be difficult, but during the season you’re gone so much, it’s something that we’re somewhat kind of used to,” Petry said. “With technology nowadays, and everything being at your fingertips on your phone or iPad, and being able to Facetime, that’ll help you get through it.

“Obviously hockey is our livelihood, but everybody fully understands that being away from the family will be tough.”

But the chance to make a Stanley Cup playoff run, when not many expected Montreal to do so, is exciting.

"It's exciting," Petry said. "Once you get going, you'll see some mistakes, and it's a little sloppier than it would normally would. But after a couple of games, it will be back to normal."

Father, son anxious to get going

So who is more antsy to get going this summer — Jeff Petry with his Montreal Canadiens teammates, or Dan Petry announcing Tigers' games?

Jeff believes it's a close tie.

"He was over the other day and he's very antsy about getting everything started with baseball season," Jeff Petry said of his father. "I know he's chomping at the bit to get going, and I can say the same thing about myself.

"Being locked in the house isn't the way I want to spend my time."

Petry's Canadiens will begin the opening round of the NHL playoffs when the season resumes, likely in July.

Of course, Dan Petry was a longtime pitcher for the Tigers, playing a big part in the 1984 World Series champions.

Jeff said it's been a big advantage to have a father who played professional sports.

"Especially early in my career, in the way to approach the professional game," Petry said. "That's been a huge asset that I have. I know there are other guys on our team that their dads played professional hockey and they can relate in that way. But just the way he (Dan) approached his daily life, being a professional athlete, and sharing those things with me has been a big help in my career."

Jeff Petry starred in both baseball and hockey at Orchard Lake St. Mary's, but made the decision his junior to stick solely with hockey.

"Hockey was something that I enjoyed playing more," Jeff said. "I liked the fast pace. Just my personality, I always have to be moving and baseball was a little slower pace. I was also, always, a little bit better in hockey than baseball and I enjoyed playing it more.

"For me, it was an easy decision (to play hockey), but to actually tell my dad I was done with baseball, I was a little fearful of that. But was very supportive."

Petry has played much of his pro career in Canada, with Edmonton and now Montreal, but hasn't forgotten his days at Orchard Lake St. Mary or Michigan State.

"There are (great memories)," Petry said. "I stay in touch with my coach at Orchard Lake (Klanow) and that's the rink I skate on in the summer, so I stay in touch with him. I see a lot of the guys I played with, like at Michigan State, we stay in touch over the summer, and a handful of them have played at the next level and it's always fun to see those guys. Like Torey Krug (Livonia/Boston Bruins), we play in the same division, we play them four times a year, so being able to catch up and see him, it's always something special."


Twitter: @tkulfan