|Michigan native and Red Wings fan Buzz Brainard can be heard every weekday "On The Highway" on SiriusXM. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – What do baseball, country music and kids television programming have in common with the Red Wings?
The answer: Buzz Brainard, the metamorphic voice of everything from computer chips to the Walt Disney Empire, who grew-up in Michigan idolizing the Red Wings. Though, by his own admission he may have attended just a couple of games as a young boy, this Nashville transplant hasn’t forgotten his hometown sports roots.
“It was really tough growing up in Flint because we weren’t really able to go to games,” Brainard said. “I was a Wings’ fan. I was a Lions’ fan. I was a Tigers’ fan. But I didn’t get to see a lot. It was more about the mystery of it. We didn’t have a lot of money so it wasn’t like we traveled to Detroit. Occasionally we’d go to a Wings game or a Tigers game, but it was enough to build in my head that it was cool to follow it. … To be able to go occasionally made the whole thing crazy big.”
Red Wings’ fans likely don’t know the man behind the voice who moved from Michigan in the early 80s to pursue an acting career. However, some may recognize Brainard as the host of “This Week in Baseball”, while music aficionados hear him weekdays on “The Highway” the road to new country on Sirius XM, and kids of all ages acquaint him to being the benevolent voice of The Disney Channel.
Born and raised in Clio, a northern Flint suburb, Brainard studied theatre and communications at Central Michigan University. But a semester before he was scheduled to graduate a job offer came in from Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater. He accepted the acting role and never looked back on a career that has since taken him from New York to Los Angeles, and Nashville where he now lives.
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“I had some success at (acting) and that took me to New York and I was doing TV commercials, a couple of small roles in movies, things like that,” Brainard said. “Then somehow got into the voice-over end of it because my television commercial agent had a voice-over department, and I asked, ‘What’s that?’
“They gave me a shot at it. I got lucky and then realized that I could go away for three days, shoot a TV commercial, and make a certain amount of money. Or I could make almost that same amount of money by doing the voice-over in an hour.”
Work’s never been difficult to get for the 50-year-old Brainard. His voice has been associated with countless corporations and products from Home Depot to Coca-Cola and Intel, the chip-making company that builds essential technologies for the world's computing devices. He was also the smart aleck commentator on the TV show "Maximum Exposure", narrated "Breed All About It" for Animal Planet, and was the promotional voice for the wildly popular TV series ‘Friends’ in syndication.
“There’s just so much out there that you can do,” Brainard said. “It’s a great job that over the years has gotten more difficult because more people started finding out about it. But it’s like the mafia because when I started once you got in you became a made man and then you were able to get work from that.”
From an illustrious man-cave of a sound studio that he had built in his Franklin, Tenn., home, Brainard still cuts voice tracks there for Disney and other clients. But his radio show is done in the SiriusXM studios, which overlook the main entrance to Bridgestone Arena, where hockey is almost as big a Carrie Underwood in this country music capital.
“I’ve been loyal to the cities that I’ve moved to,” said Brainard, who often speaks of his love of the Wings and Tigers on his national radio show. “When I was in Los Angeles I was able to adopt the Dodgers because they’re a National League team, so I didn’t feel bad about that. But nobody can take the place of the Red Wings. Everyone goes nuts for the Preds in this town, which is phenomenal. But it’s completely different if the Wings are in town.
“Working here at SiriusXM you can look out at where everyone comes in, and when the Wings are here it’s just a sea of red. … There are a lot of transplants in this town, but Red Wings’ fans come out of the woodwork and it’s nuts. It makes me very proud.”
SOG: 30 | +/-: 8
“Just a great place for me to train,” he said. “You're at altitude all the time. I'm big into outdoor sports. The best thing about it is it's sunny every day, you can't beat that.”
But tonight will mark the first time that the veteran defenseman has played an NHL game in Denver since he was traded to Detroit by the Avalanche as part of a three-team deal on Feb. 21, 2012.
“The hardest thing about the trade was (leaving) the guys in the dressing room,” he said. “They have a great group of guys there, my closest friends. Good to see them. I make my home in Denver, so I'll have a lot of friends there outside of hockey. It'll be good to see them again. I had a lot of good memories there, making the playoffs, so it's good to go back there.”
Quincey received a lot of ticket requests for tonight’s game, which, he said, is compounded by it being a Friday night game and the fact that the Colorado Rockies are also playing their first baseball game of the new season in Denver.
“It's Opening Day, big day in Denver,” Quincey said. “People going to the Rockies game will then go to the Wings game. … Hopefully I get enough tickets for all the people.”
Tonight will also be Quincey’s return to the Red Wings’ lineup since being struck on the right side of the head by a puck in Edmonton on March 15. A X-ray later showed that he had several small facial fractures that didn’t need surgery to repair. However, as a precaution he must wear a full face-cage because he still is experience from numbness in his face.
“Don't feel teeth, gums, lips,” said Quincey as he pointed to the right side of his face. “That's just the one issue, but it doesn't affect me on the ice. I'm eating softer foods, not the hard stuff. Good for the diet.
“Hopefully by playoff time I won't have to worry about it and can take this cage off.”
SOG: 100 | +/-: -7
Brunner, who has 11 goals and 11 assists this season, has an undisclosed lower body injury that first started bothering him a couple of weeks ago. He did not practice with the Red Wings Wednesday in Detroit, and he tried to participate in today’s morning skate, but only lasted about 15 minutes before he headed back to the locker room.
“I tried,” Brunner said. “I thought it's going to be better, but obviously it felt not that good. I hope it's going to be better tomorrow.”
Immediately after tonight’s game, the Red Wings will fly to Denver where they will face the Colorado Avalanche for the second time in five days.
The Wings will again be without veteran forward Mikael Samulesson, who suffered a new injury in Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena. The new injury is to the upper body, but Samuelsson was hesitant to say exactly. He missed 12 games early in the season after re-aggravating a groin injury that he suffered during the team’s mini-training camp in mid-January. He then sat-out 19 games after sustaining a non-dislocated fracture of the left index finger.
“I'm falling apart,” said Samuelsson, half joking. “Not lucky at all. I bruised my pec (pectoral) muscle. (Michal) Roszival got stuck in the boards with his stick so I went to hit it, or poke-check it. Since he got stuck, it pulled me back.”
Like Brunner, Samuelsson too, believes that he is day to day.
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|Danny DeKeyser talked to the Detroit media after skating in his first practice with his new Red Wings' teammates. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)|
DETROIT – As someone who grew-up in Michigan cheering for the Red Wings as a young boy, forward Justin Abdelkader had an idea of what Danny DeKeyser must have felt as he skated with his new team for the first time last Saturday.
Like Abdelkader, who was born and raised in western Michigan, DeKeyser grew-up a huge Red Wings fan in metro Detroit. The undrafted free agent defenseman signed with his hometown team over the weekend after deciding on the Wings instead of several other NHL clubs that sought his services.
“Yeah, my dad and I talked about it too,” Abdelkader said. “Just remembering the first time I walked into the locker room, and guys coming up to me to introduce themselves. You knew most of the guys, but for them to walk up to you and introduce themselves was really special.”
It was a "pinch me" moment for DeKeyser, who grew-up 40-minutes northeast of Joe Louis Arena and played three seasons of college hockey at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.
“He looks excited and happy to be here, obviously. It’s great for him,” Abdelkader said. “It’s great that he chose his hometown team and it’s got to be extremely exciting for him to come in here and be a part of a team, an organization that he probably grew-up rooting for.”
Though Abdelkader took the more traditional route to the Red Wings, who selected him in the second-round of the 2005 NHL draft, the memories of turning pro for his hometown team were no different than what DeKeyser experienced.
“It was awesome, something that I will never forget, just walking in here for the first time,” Abdelkader said. “I remember coming in for a pre-game skate and it was optional; not a lot of guys came down to the rink. … Finally to make the dream come true and step foot into the locker room for the first time and to meet the guys was a great experience.”
SOG: 116 | +/-: -1
Zetterberg said he suffered a groin injury at some point in the team’s 2-0 loss at San Jose last Thursday. And though he skated in pregame warm-ups on Sunday, he did not play in the 7-1 loss to Chicago.
“I wanted to feel how it felt out there, and it wasn’t any better than the day before, so I made the decision not to play,” Zetterberg said. “Didn’t skate today, so I won’t play tonight. See how it is tomorrow.”
The team’s second-leading scorer with eight goals and 24 assists, had tests that, “Showed something, and that’s why I’m not playing,” Zetterberg said.
Coach Mike Babcock confirmed that Zetterberg will miss the game, and reiterated his usual line about groin injuries, saying, “Day-to-day for 10 of them.”
Zetterberg had played in 116 consecutive games, dating back to the end of the 2010-11 season.
“Well, it’s still day to day,” he said. “I will say I feel a few percent better today than yesterday. That’s improvement. So we’re still doing good treatment and hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow than I do today.”
DETROIT – Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t know Mary Mrdjenovic.
He’s never met the three-sport star, who is in the final semester of her senior year at Regina High School, an all-girls Catholic school in suburban Warren, Mich.
But her story struck a nerve with the Red Wings’ captain, which caused him to act.
Last month, Mrdjenovic broke her back when she lost a skate edge in practice, sending her hard into the net before crashing into the end boards. Both collisions were violent enough to fracture three vertebrae in her spine.
While he’s not met her, Zetterberg was familiar with Mary’s name. She had submitted an application as a finalist for this year’s scholarship, which Zetterberg has awarded to the state’s top high school female player in each of the past five years.
“We have our scholarship every year and thought it would be nice to give her a scholarship too,” Zetterberg said. “Obviously, with what happened to her, I think it’s for a good cause. It’s high school hockey. They’re good students and every time you have a chance to give back you should.”
Mary’s accident occurred Feb. 20, but Zetterberg wasn’t aware of it until last week, days before the banquet meant to honor the top boys and girls prep players from across the state. Mary attended the banquet, where she also received all-league and all-academic honors.
“I heard about her accident through the guy that helps me with the scholarship,” Zetterberg said. “They called me when we were in western Canada and asked if we could do anything. I think it’s a great opportunity to help her out.”
Zetterberg’s decision to award a separate $1,500 gift to Mary was made easy, because the Regina student-athlete has made helping others a priority.
Mary maintains a 4.0 grade-point average in the classroom, is a three-year member of Regina’s robotics team, and is chapter president for SADD – Students Against Destructive Decisions, which is formerly Students Against Driving Drunk. She also gives her time to Gleaners Community Food Bank; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; a local nursing home; as well as working fundraisers at her parish.
“I’ve heard that she’s a fantastic kid,” Zetterberg said. “Hopefully I can meet her one day.”
Mary plans to attend Kettering University in the fall, where she will major in biochemistry and bioengineering. She also played field hockey and lacrosse at Regina.
Regina athletic director Diane Laffey said that Mary has been walking, and while her high school athletic career is done, she hopes to return to the classroom after Easter.
“She’s just a great kid, just super kid,” Laffey said. “She’s one of those kids who doesn’t go around flaunting herself around or talking about herself. She’s very, very concerned about all of her teammates and she always has been. She’s just a really good kid.”
News of Zetterberg’s generosity came as a huge surprise to the school community, Laffey said.
“I think everybody was probably shocked,” she said. “We knew that she had applied for the scholarship, but we had no idea that he was going to give it a special award.”
SOG: 7 | +/-: -1
Nyquist, who leads the American Hockey League is scoring – with 23 goals and 37 assists in 58 games – will play in his fifth game with the Wings this season. His call-up was necessary after veteran forward Patrick Eaves was struck in the face by a puck in Tuesday’s practice.
Eaves, who has a history of post-concussion syndrome, suffered sprained temporomandibular (commonly known as TMJ) joints, which connect both sides of the jawbone to the skull. He is day to day.
In four games with the Wings this season, Nyquist has one assist with a minus-1 rating. He played in the Griffins’ 4-1 loss Tuesday night.
“We sent him to Peoria to play the game last night,” coach Mike Babcock said. “Gave him a six-hour bus ride. Let him sleep for a bit and we’ll let him play tonight see how mentally tough he is. That’s all part of the training to be a Red Wing.”
Nyquist is a former two-time finalist for the Hobey Baker Award when he was a member of the University of Maine hockey program. Nyquist has been a leading scorer at every level that he’s played. But his NHL career has been slow to start.
“The problem with the NHL is you have to come up and grab hold of something,” Babcock said. “You know, we called (Joakim Andersson) up for a game. He’s still play, just because he grabbed hold of something. That’s what Gus has to do.
“So you get another opportunity. Patty hurt his jaw. So if you’re Gus and you get in there tonight and you do great things, guess what happens? I think Cal Ripken played shortstop for 22 straight years, or something like that, didn’t he?”
|Oilers center Teemu Hartikainen left his feet to make a hit from behind on Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey during the second period of Friday's game at Rexall Place. (Photo by Getty Images)|
DETROIT – It took a half a day for Kyle Quincey to definitively learn that he had a fractured cheekbone. And on Monday, another nugget of bad news came to light when team doctors told the Red Wings defenseman that the facial bone was broken in multiple spots.
Doctors wouldn’t rule out surgery, but they can’t make a final diagnosis until more swelling goes down.
“Quincey got checked by the doctors today,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He sees (the eye doctor) tomorrow, still won't know anything because of the swelling. Will re-evaluate in a week, but he's got multiple fractures.”
The loss of Quincey – who will likely be out a minimum of 4-6 weeks – definitely hurts the Red Wings on the back end. The veteran had really started playing well. He had a goal and an assist with a plus-8 rating in 26 games.
Quincey suffered the facial injury Friday night during the third period of the Red Wings’ 3-2 overtime win at Edmonton. He was struck in the face when a puck rode up the shaft of his stick from a shot by Oilers center Jordan Eberle.
Fortunately, the Red Wings had nine defensemen up at the time of Quincey’s injury.
Veteran defenseman Ian White replaced Quincey in the lineup Saturday in Vancouver. It’s expected that he’ll play Wednesday when the Red Wings host the Minnesota Wild at Joe Louis Arena. The Wings also have an insurance card in veteran journeyman Kent Huskins, who is up with the big club and available to play.
“What are you going to do? We've been talking about this all year,” Babcock said. “The rest of it doesn't matter. We got to find a way to win a game. We found a way last game, we got to find away again.”
Beyond Huskins, depth on the back end becomes a problem as they’re still without veteran defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who has been sidelined by a shoulder injury since the season’s opening week.
“I don't know anything about Carlo's situation, but White played the last game and did a fine job,” Babcock said. “He's just got to get himself rolling like he can, get his confidence to the highest level and play.”
GAA: 2.65 | SVP: 0.885
But tonight, the Swedish import expects to be just as nervous in his first start with the Red Wings as he always was in Toronto.
“I'm always nervous before I play, but not to a point where it's a bad thing,” said Gustavsson, who will start against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. “I like to feel that nervousness. It means that there's something going on and that makes me sharp. So that's the kind of feeling you like as a goalie.”
Gustavsson has had a tough go at it with his new team, battling a sore groin basically since he tweaked it during a relief appearance in the season-opening loss at St. Louis.
The 28-year-old is 0-0-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average when called upon to relieve starter Jimmy Howard twice this season. Gustavsson’s even chipped in with some offense, picking up a secondary assist on Pavel Datsyuk’s highlight reel goal at Nashville on Feb. 19.
Tonight’s start probably would be tougher if it were his first action with his new team, he said. But it’s not.
Still, an injury that has lingered for nearly the entire first half of the season, isn’t ideal, either.
“Of course that's probably not the best situation, but that's the way it is,” Gustavsson said. “Through your career you're going to have different challenges. Just got to find a way to handle them and stay positive. For me that is in the past and I'm just trying to look forward to the game tonight.”
Obviously, coach Mike Babcock is eager to see what Gustavsson can bring to the Wings.
“I think it’s important that your starting goalie doesn’t have to play every night,” Babcock said. “It’s a real good opportunity for him. We need a win on the road and he’s capable of doing that so get in there and play like you can.”
Gustavsson will face the Sharks for the first time in his three-plus season career. Though the Sharks have had their struggles of late, Gustavsson said tonight is very important for the Wings.
“They're a talented team, tough challenge for us,” he said. “That's what we like. Find a way to bounce back from yesterday and get a win.”
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Coming off their two impressive home wins against Nashville and Vancouver, the Red Wings were back on the ice preparing for their Wednesday game against the defending Stanley Cup champions at Staples Center.
While forward Johan Franzen (hip) and defenseman Kyle Quincey (ankle) were back at work Tuesday afternoon at the Toyota Sports Center, top six forward Valtteri Filppula sat out with an undisclosed injury, according to general manager Ken Holland.
“You’ll see him tomorrow,” said Holland, as he watched practice with pro scout Bruce Haralson. “He has an injury, but it’s not his knee.”
Filppula, who has four goals and 10 points this season, suffered a sprained MCL while playing in Finland during the lockout. He is just one of nine Red Wings who have played in every game this season.
He admitted to the knee being a source of pain last month, which held him out of some practices.
Filppula missed one game last season, finishing third in team scoring with 23 goals and 43 assists.
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