Brian Rafalski has spent two and a half years in retirement, but hours before his first game back in competitive hockey, he says he's at ease.
"There'll be some dust that has to be shaken off," Rafalski said by phone Friday afternoon.
On Thursday, Rafalski signed a contract to join the ECHL's Florida Everblades, who he's spent the last two and a half years with as team chaplain, as well as a youth coach. Last week, the Detroit Red Wings granted Rafalski his release in order to allow him to pursue this opportunity otherwise, according to MLive.com's Ansar Khan, he "would have been Red Wings’ property for three years from the time he filed his voluntary retirement papers in May 2011."
The 40-year old defenseman, who has three Stanley Cup rings and two Olympic silver medals, will make his debut against the South Carolina Stingrays Friday night.
So why no? And is a return to the NHL his end goal?
"I wouldn't call it a comeback right now," Rafalski said. "It's just that God put it in my heart early/mid December to start skating again. I've said a constant prayer over that time, [while] at the same time getting back in shape and skating a little bit. Worse case, I get back in shape again. As far as anything else goes, we'll see where it leads."
"At this point, [I'm] just taking it a day at a time, letting the Lord lead me."
Rafalski has participated in a number of practices with the Everblades since December, but he says his conditioning is still not 100-percent.
"That's going to be the biggest battle for me tonight, maintaining and conserving energy so I can play 60 minutes."
Despite his time away from the game and the conditioning that's still to come, Rafalski feels ready to tackle this opportunity.
"God put me here, down in southwest Florida for several reasons and he's continued to help me grow," he said. "He always prepares you for the next challenge."
"It's not going to change my role while I'm here, it's just the next step in my life."
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