Professional hockey player Pat Nagle grew up in Bloomfield Hills surrounded by the game, learning how to skate on Watkins Lake in Waterford with one of his best friends.
"My dad played growing up, and my neighbor at the time was Paul Woods, who does color commentary for the Red Wings and played for them. His son is one of my best buddies, and we grew up together," Nagle said. "It kind of went from there, playing in AAA for Belle Tire and Compuware.
"My father played and did the same stuff and stopped after college. Hockey runs heavy in his blood, and he kept me interested and helped out by coaching when I was younger. He's still convinced that I became a goal tender so he couldn't yell at me. I always thought it was neat that they had a cool mask and had similarities to a catcher in baseball."
After graduating from Lahser High School, Nagle played for Ferris State University, then was signed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, playing professionally for the team's ECHL team, the Florida Everblades, helping the team win the league's Kelly Cup. He was then called up to the Lightning's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals, for their Calder Cup championship.
More recently, Nagle has played for the Detroit Red Wings affiliate teams the Grand Rapids Griffins, in the AHL, and the Toledo Walleye, in the ECHL, where he served as starting goal tender in the Kelly Cup finals.
Formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League, the ECHL is a mid-level minor league, while the AHL is the top-tier minor league. While both are competitive, some consider the AHL to focus more on development for the major league NHL teams. While it isn't uncommon for players to go back and forth between leagues, goal tenders are a little different breed.
"That happens often where each organization has different ways to going about things, and you get transferred, but more for goalies," Nagle said. "It happens with forwards and defensemen, too, but with goalies, one day you're starting in the AHL, and the next you're backing up in the EHCL. It's all part of the process."
In Toledo, Nagle is a veteran player who is key to the team's post-season success. The team, which has recently drawn higher crowds than the famed Toledo Mud Hens – the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers – and has earned the best record in the conference for four seasons. He's also played three seasons for the Fort Wayne Komets, the team's top rival.
"It's always tough. I have buddies on both teams," Nagle said about being traded. "But for me, it was good to be back in the Detroit system. It's funny how things work."
With both Red Wings affiliate teams within hours of metro Detroit, Nagle is able to stay relatively close to home, whether he's driving to Toledo or Grand Rapids.
"I'm married now and have a house here. As you get older in your career, you start to appreciate those things," he said. "For the first five years, I did a lot of bouncing around. It was fun when I was younger and single, and it's part of the process. But as you get older, it's nice to have a little more reliability and know where you're going to end up."