Sam Stange discusses drafting by Red Wings, status as a two-sport star

The Red Wings selected Sam Stange with the 97th overall pick on Tuesday, and he was informed of his status as a Red Wing in a unique way by University of Wisconsin Coach Tony Granato, who stopped practice to afford him a phone call with Kris Draper:

We interrupt today’s practice for @sam_stange3 to get drafted by the @DetroitRedWings— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 7, 2020

Stange spoke to his hometown paper, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram (and reporter Jack Goods), about his circuitous path through baseball and minor hockey to his draft day:

Last year, fresh off hitting the home run that helped Eau Claire North win a Division 1 state baseball title, he sat through seven rounds of the NHL draft without hearing his name called. Despite leading Husky hockey to its first state tournament appearance since 2006, he’d have to prove himself at the next level with a season of junior hockey.

He did just that, notching 26 goals and 19 assists in 48 games in the United States Hockey League. That was plenty to all but lock him into a draft position as an overage player, but he was forced to wait again when the coronavirus pandemic pushed the draft back from its usual summer slot to the fall.

“Luckily I guess I’m not too antsy of a person,” Stange said.

Wednesday, he finally got the call.

Stange, now with the University of Wisconsin, was selected in the fourth round, 97th overall, by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2020 NHL draft.

“Toward the end of practice we were in the huddle and (Wisconsin coach Tony Granato) had found out about it earlier,” Stange said on a Zoom call Wednesday with Madison and Eau Claire reporters. “As we gathered around he handed me the phone and it was the Red Wings.”

Stange wasn’t drafted last year, so he tells Goods that having been through a draft experience helped his nerves…

And he also spoke with the University of Wisconsin’s website, just prior to the draft, about his status as a two-sport star:

Although Stange’s coaches on the Musketeers and at Wisconsin were supportive of his decision to continue playing baseball, it was still something he struggled with.

“When we finally did end up winning State, on one hand it was validation for the decision that I had made and I knew that I had made the right decision,” Stange said. “I was really happy about that, and on the other hand, being able to experience one last run with all the kids I grew up playing with and who were my best friends there was really special.”

Many hockey players specialize in the sport at a young age, given the extensive time and effort it takes to play hockey at a high level. As a multi-sport athlete all his life, Stange decided that path of development wasn’t right for him.

“It was a really tough decision,” Stange said regarding his choice to pursue both baseball and hockey. “Everyone who was involved was supportive, but I was always worried about how it might look. [Baseball] was something I was passionate about too, so being able to get that last run in was important.”

Stange was named the 2019 Wisconsin high school player of the year in both baseball and hockey. His success and talent in multiple sports made it difficult to pick just one when the time came, especially when it was a possibility to play both at the collegiate level.

“It was kind of a toss up I guess,” Stange said on choice to forgo baseball in favor of hockey. “I just decided I was enjoying hockey more and I think that’s still the case. Obviously I miss baseball but I wouldn’t change my decision at all.”

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.