Detroit Red Wings: Holland's Home For The Elderly Welcomes Ruslan Salei

Matt HutterAnalyst IAugust 9, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 23:  Ruslan Salei #24 of Belarus looks on during the ice hockey Men's Qualification Playoff game between Switzerland and Belarus on day 12 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at UBC Thunderbird Arena on February 23, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There's a psychological theory out there that suggests that, over the course of a lifetime, people eventually gravitate towards environments that mirror their personality.

For example, anti-social, tight-lipped, rugged individuals usually plant their proverbial flag (and 'no trespassing sign') in a remote corner of some God-forsaken desert.

Bubbly, verbose, culturally inquisitive people typically make their way to large cities, teaming with activity and diversity.

The place, fits the person, and the person fits the place.

Or so the theory goes.

So considering this, where would an aging, broken-down, hockey player staring down the barrel of retirement look to set up residence?

Well, why not a ratty, smelly, 31-year-old arena with an expired lease?

Yes, for nearly a decade, the deteriorating landmark that is Joe Louis Arena has doubled as a haven for the NHL's elderly, infirm, and forgotten players.

On Monday, the Detroit Red Wings added aging defenseman Ruslan Salei via a one-year $700,000 (with $350,000 in potential bonuses) contract.

Salei most recently played with the Colorado Avalanche after a brief stint with the Florida Panthers.

However, it's his nine-year tenure with Anaheim (two of them under head coach Mike Babcock) that provides the most comprehensive snap-shot of his time in the NHL.

Salei is a career stay-at-home defenseman with above average stamina and the penchant for playing a bit nasty from time to time—not a bad addition at all to a defensive corps that boasts more skill than grit.

However, over the past two seasons, Salei has only appeared in 84 games total.

Last season, the Belarusian-born blue-liner missed 56 games do to a devastating back injury that, at 34-years-old (at the time), is something he'll never fully recover from.

Salei is slated to play alongside promising, if not a bit raw, defender Jonathan Ericsson on the the third defensive pairing.

Much like Andreas Lilja did through the end of last season, Salei is expected to play a safe, defensive-minded game while acting as mentor and/or babysitter for the young Swede, who the Wings feel is but a season or two away from entering top four status.

The addition of Salei underscores the value the Detroit Red Wings continue to put on a veteran-laden line-up. Their biggest free-agent signings this offseason—namely Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom and Mike Modano—are all players 35 and older, the latter two being 40.

Like the arena in which they'll play, all of these players are experienced, well-worn, NHL fixtures that, hopefully, will see one last year of glory before they officially put an end to their careers.

There are some NHL pundits that question GM Ken Holland's out-right bias towards adding experienced, NHL veterans over younger free-agent talent.

Given that hockey, as it is played in the NHL, is more a young man's game than it has ever been, the decision to add players that may not be walking through the door of retirement, but certainly being handed their hats, is a risky one.

Then again, the same was said back in the summer of 2001 and 2007 when the Wings' only major additions were players most considered to be past their primes.

In the end, things worked out OK the following June.

So, who knows, maybe these ancient relics of formerly great NHL players see Joe Louis Arena as more of a fountain of youth rather than a broken down graveyard in which to lay their tired careers to rest.

If they're right, than what could be the Red Wings last year in the Joe Louis Arena might be one for the ages, not just the aged.