POSTED ON Friday, 10.21.2011 / 5:41 PM
Ever wonder where old Zamboni ice resurfacers go to die?
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: these custom-made machines are built to last. They don’t die. They get makeovers. And that’s the plan for the pair of 6,700-pound machines at Joe Louis Arena.
As part of Miller Brewing Company’s sponsorship renewal, the Red Wings’ resurfacers are getting new paint jobs and being reskinned with new digitally-printed vinyl signage over the next few weeks.
Navigating one of these behemoths around the dasher boards isn’t easy, and painting one isn’t as simple as saying, Earl Scheib, either.
This is a job for experts, which is why K&T Kustom’s Kollision in Shelby Township was called in on this assignment, which started this week with the 1988 Model 500 that used to be bright blue, but now sports a fresh new coat of snow white automotive-grade paint.
“It was red at one time, and it was blue recently, and there was another color, so I would say for sure that this was at least the fourth paint job from new,” said Kelly Wojcik, K&T owner. “We sanded it and prepped it so we could lay a paint job down on it and it will hold up.”
With its new paint job, the older of the two resurfacers looks brand new, and it should considering that it took approximately 280 man-hours to restore.
“Over my career of doing this type of stuff, I got my experience in a lot of different vehicles,” said Wojcik, who has restored everything from a ’53 Hudson Hornet to a ’72 Corvette that took first-place in the 1995 Detroit Autorama. “But the Zamboni … that was my first one. But whether it a Zamboni or an old antique tractor, the preparation is almost on the same order.”
The ’88 Zamboni still bears the Miller Lite brand, but with new updated signage, said Rob Croll, the Red Wings’ director of corporate sponsorship.
“The one that you’ve known as Miller Genuine Draft will go to Molson,” Croll said, “because that is the official beer of hockey – the whole new Miller deal with the NHL – where they have realigned their brands with Miller Lite on the domestic side and Molson on the import side. That’s real important branding for them.”
The 1998 Model 500 – the one always driven by Al Sobotka – will undergo its transformation next month while the team is in southern California. It will be outfitted in Molson signage.
POSTED ON Friday, 10.21.2011 / 2:55 PM
Niklas Kronwall has experienced the loss of a loved one at an early age, which basically makes him an authority on the devastating affects of a despicable disease like breast cancer.
While the Red Wings defenseman is thankful that nobody in his immediate family has been inflicted with the disease, he hopes that a cure can be found before it does strike close to home.
“Obviously, it’s a big thing out there, and the more that we can do to research, the better it is,” Kronwall said. “It’s terrible and hopefully at some point in time we’ll be able to find a cure for it. Who knows how long that will be, but it’s going to take a lot of money and a lot of effort from a lot of people.”
The Wings plan to contribute to the fight against cancer tonight when they host their fifth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Joe Louis Arena. The event is in conjunction with the NHL’s month-long Hockey Fights Cancer initiative.
The Wings have plenty of fund-raising activities planned, including a silent auction, puck draw, 50/50 raffle and a special sale on pink knit hats with all of the proceeds benefiting the Liggett Breast Cancer Center in Grosse Pointe Woods, as well as the Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills.
During tonight’s pregame warm-ups, Wings’ players will use sticks wrapped with pink hockey tape. These sticks will then be autographed and auctioned on the JLA concourse during tonight’s game.
Fans that wear pink to tonight’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be entered into a drawing where the winner will receive a team-signed jersey.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 7:25 PM
Dozens of film producers, camera operators and assorted others descended on Joe Louis Arena this week to shoot a TV commercial for Ram Truck that features none other than ‘The Mule’ Johan Franzen.
Good thing the Red Wings were in the middle of a long five-day break this week – their longest of this season – because Franzen definitely put in some long hours in front of the camera.
For more than four hours, Franzen was in uniform and did a lot of standing around on his skates at center ice next to a bright red Dodge Ram. The premise of the commercial is Ram vs. Mule, though Franzen doesn’t have a speaking part, standing on skates for that long of a time is quite taxing.
“Did different stuff, mostly hard skates, was doing sprints from one side to the other, 20 times total, something like that,” Franzen said. “It's kind of hard when you're cold, you want to get it to look like you're really going hard. I tried to push it. I was cold. I was trying to sit down and stretch it a little bit so I wouldn't pull anything. It was fun.”
The crew was even equipped with an SUV, which is specially outfitted with a very impressive-looking movie camera attached to a large robotic arm affixed to the vehicle’s roof. Crewmembers that I spoke to Wednesday estimated the net worth of the black SUV – cameras, rigging and all – at approximately $1 million.
The only glitch of the day – which began at 9 a.m. and finally wrapped up before 10 p.m. – was getting the SUV on and off the ice. Crewmembers had to remove the wheels just so the camera arm could clear the AT&T sign above the Zamboni entrance to the rink.
Last month, we learned that the Ram, which is built in suburban Detroit and is a three-time recipient of Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year Award, is now the official truck of the Red Wings.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.20.2011 / 6:55 PM
I‘m thinking it might be a pretty good time to be a hockey fan living in Scandinavia right about now, especially if you’re a fan of the Red Wings.
The NHL announced a landmark deal this week that will allow for every single regular-season game – that’s 1,230 games in all – to be broadcast live on pay channels or free TV in Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway.
With more than 25 percent of NHL players hailing from outside of North America, and 50 percent alone on the Wings’ roster, league games have always attracted large TV audiences in the Nordic region. And that’s certainly something that the league has capitalized on, particularly over the last five years when they send NHL teams to Europe to begin the season.
The Wings, you’ll remember, started the 2009-10 campaign with a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm.
Captain Nicklas Lidstrom is grateful for the NHL deal so that his parents back home can watch the Wings with more regularity.
“Last year they were showing up to three NHL games over there,” he said. “So my parents saw some of our games. But I think, especially in Sweden, the people want to follow the Swedish players.”
The TV deal is a far cry when Lidstrom was growing up. Back then, he said, the only live NHL games that were available back home were the Stanley Cup finals.
“They would usually show highlights, but at odd times,” Lidstrom said. “But now if they show 7:30 games from here at 1:30, in the middle of the night, they at least replay them around 7:30 in the morning, so you can at least get the scores, if not watch the whole game.”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.18.2011 / 12:28 PM
‘Hockeytown Thanks’ was an overwhelmingly huge success this week.
And why shouldn’t it? After all, with five off-days between games, the Red Wings had some time to burn, and what better way to do it than to say ‘thank you’ to those diehard fans, who’ve supported this team through thick and thin.
Over the last two days – and through the collective assistance of the team’s corporate sales, marketing and public relations staffs – nearly every player went into the community as a gesture of goodwill, thanking fans, as well as corporate sponsors.
Players welcomed customers at seven different retail stores in western Wayne and Oakland counties, spending an hour each at a Meijer, Kroger, Tim Hortons (see video below), Little Caesars, Belle Tire, AT&T, and Szott Dodge/Ram. They also visited the downtown Detroit offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Quicken Loans, where they greeted employees.
It’s fair to say that hundreds of BCBS employees were beyond surprised as they arrived to work Monday morning and saw forwards Tomas Holmstrom, Drew Miller and Fabian Brunnstrom standing in their lobby.
Perhaps the best light-hearted moment at BCBS occurred when Miller greeted a group of employees, who were making their way to the lobby escalator and beyond.
Sounding like he took a page from the socialist manifesto, Miller told the small, yet swift-moving group, “Welcome to work”. Of course, his message drew a mixture of employee responses, from a few grumbles to a spattering of laughs.
POSTED ON Friday, 10.14.2011 / 3:28 PM
Three games into the regular-season and the Red Wings lead the league in fewest goals allowed. Granted, it’s early, but the Wings sure are in far better shape than they were at the end of last season when they were rated 23rd in the category, having allowed 237 goals.
|Jimmy Howard makes one of his 25 saves Thursday, here stopping Vancouver's Dale Weise.|
Now, there was a bit of concern last week when the Wings raced to a 5-0 lead over Ottawa on opening night, only to surrender three unanswered goals in about a 12-minute window in the third period.
However, since then, goalies Ty Conklin and Jimmy Howard have pitched back-to-back shutouts, beating Colorado (3-0) and Vancouver (2-0), respectively. It’s the first consecutive shutouts for the Wings in 440 regular-season games, dating back to February 2006 when Manny Legace blanked Colorado (3-0) and Nashville (6-0).
“Both goalies (Conklin and Howard) were good, it's not like they had nights off, they had to be good in both of them,” said coach Mike Babcock, following Thursday’s win. “That's good for Howie, good for Conks and good for our team.”
The Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs (I know, the Toronto Maple Leafs!) are the lone NHL teams not to give up goals in both the first and second periods in the opening week of the season. Detroit also leads the league with a +7 goals differential, and shares the league lead with Edmonton with a 1.00 goals against average. However, the Oilers only have two games in the books.
POSTED ON Thursday, 10.13.2011 / 1:03 PM
|Cory Emmerton has a goal and an assist in the Wings' first two games of the season. (Getty Images)|
It’s still early in the season, but rookie Cory Emmerton has been a perfect fit on the Red Wings’ fourth line for one simple reason – he plays center, and so far, he’s done very well.
“We need a center, so he's got an advantage right there if he can continue to play well,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “He's skated well, he's looked after the puck well. He's been pretty good in the (face-off) circle, he's been good on the penalty kill.”
Babcock said that he’s anxious to see how Emmerton fares tonight against two very solid face-off centermen in Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra and Maxim Lapierre.
“He's going to get a test for a young guy in the faceoff circle,” Babcock said. “And he's going to get a test on the penalty kill against a real good power play. It's all part of the growing process.”
Through two games, Emmerton has won four face-offs for a 36.4 winning percentage. He also has a goal and an assist with a plus-2 rating.
“I think he's done a real good job,” Babcock said.
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.12.2011 / 4:57 PM
A lot of attention has been give to the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions this week. And rightly so. It’s not every year that the Tigers are in the MLB postseason, and heck, Dwight Eisenhower was POTUS the last time the Lions had an undefeated record this late in the season.
But where’s the love for this Saturday’s football game between No. 11 Michigan and No. 23 Michigan State?
However, with two Spartans in the Red Wings’ locker room, Saturday’s Big Ten battle – with first-place implications on the line in the newly formed Legends Division – wouldn’t slip by unnoticed.
“It’s a huge weekend,” said Wings forward Drew Miller. “It’s one of those weekends that people look forward to. I think both teams are doing very well, so far. I know Michigan is doing a little better in the rankings, but we both have some big wins. This is something that I think both teams get up for. It’ll be a good, competitive game, and the score will be relatively close.”
Miller’s fellow MSU alum, Justin Abdelkader is a big college football fan, who believes that his Spartans will win if they can stop Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson.
“He’s like a Vince Young-type of player,” said Abdelkader, referring to the former University of Texas QB.
The Wings should just be returning to their team hotel from Saturday’s morning skate in St. Paul in time to catch the second half of the college football game. Even though the game hasn’t received the media attention that it usually does, both Wings said they will try to watch the game, if they can.
“Obviously, with the Lions, and then the Tigers in the playoffs, I think everyone has been so into those guys, that there hasn’t been much Michigan-Michigan State talk, which is fine,” Abdelkader said. “But once Friday and Saturday come around, I think everyone will start getting hyped up for the football game.”
POSTED ON Wednesday, 10.12.2011 / 1:55 PM
Last Halloween, Darren Helm turned a lot of heads when he walked into a players-only party dressed as Todd Bertuzzi. The young center even went as far as contacting a local artist to copy Bertuzzi’s tattoos onto his chest, back and arms with Sharpies.
Helm hasn’t gone to such lengths to mimic his teammate since. However, he caught a few glimpses when he walked into the Red Wings’ locker room Wednesday afternoon, wearing a black T-shirt with Bertuzzi’s intimidating likeness on the chest.
The shirt is from last season, when Bertuzzi had a bunch made up to commemorate his 1,000th NHL game, Jan. 21 at Minnesota. The back of the shirt reads, “BERT 1000” in gigantic white font and a Red Wings’ logo underneath.
“That was from last year’s party that we had at Dick O’Dow’s,” Bertuzzi said. “Had those shirts done from Under Armour.”
When asked if it takes a “bold man” to wear a shirt like that, Bertuzzi emphatically replied, “No. Not really. Are you kidding me? That’s me on that shirt.”
Asked if he would wear a shirt with his own face on it, Bertuzzi said, “Damn right I would!”
POSTED ON Tuesday, 10.11.2011 / 6:09 PM
Monday, after the Red Wings practiced at Joe Louis Arena, coach Mike Babcock told the news media how exciting the rest of his day was going to be. He had plans to watch the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS before heading to Ford Field with his son to catch the undefeated Detroit Lions take center stage on Monday Night Football.
Following Tuesday afternoon’s practice, Babcock was still gushing over the experience. But not for the reasons one would expect.
“I got to meet Bob Seger last night,” said Babcock with a beaming smile. “I went to the game, got to meet Bob Seger. I met lots of guys, but Bob Seger … My buddy and I when we were 17, went all the way to Ottawa from Saskatoon, hitch-hiked and bused and did everything to see his concert and I finally met him 31 years later.”
The 66-year-old Seger and the Silver Bullet Band begins a 17 city tour through the U.S. – and oddly enough, a stop in Ottawa – next month with the opening show Nov. 2 on the Eastern Michigan University campus in Ypsilanti.
The excitement for what is happen right now in Detroit with the Tigers in the postseason, and the Lions doing what they’re doing to the NFL competition, the atmosphere in downtown Detroit Monday was at an all-time new level.
“It's really exciting,” Babcock said. “It's exciting to see the Lions do so well and see what they're building. And it's exciting to see the Tigers, it's great for our town.”
The streets leading from the bars and restaurants, including the establishment owned by former Wings defenseman Chris Chelios were electric, Babcock said.
“Went to Cheli's place the other night when the Tigers were playing,” he said. “Last night, downtown, walking from the ballpark to Ford Field and seeing the excitement of the people and the noise, it was unbelievable. I think it's great for Michigan and good for the whole town.”