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POSTED ON Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 4:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

More than 700 hockey fans made their way from Quebec City to cheer for the Red Wings Saturday and to lobby for an NHL franchise. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
If the objective was to be seen – and heard – the large group clad in blue T-shirts and jerseys adorned with fleur-de-lis emblems, sure got their message across to the nationally televised audience at a sold-out Joe Louis Arena on Saturday afternoon.

More than 700 fans of the former Nordiques organization made the exhausting 725-mile road trip from Quebec on 14 busses to attend the Red Wings season finale – a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Genevieve Malenfant, of Quebec City, said the group known as Nordiques Nation, wants the NHL to return to the capital city, which is the second most populated city in Quebec after Montreal.

“I’m here for my Wings, of course,” said Malenfant, decked out in Red Wings’ gear. “But we are here because we want to have our team, the Nordiques, like we did 17 years ago. We want to have our hockey team back in Quebec.”

According to Richard Levesque, who attended Saturday’s game with his son, Detroit was the fifth and final NHL city on the group’s North American tour this season, having also visited Newark, Miami, Ottawa and Boston.

“We like for the Red Wings Detroit to win the game,” said Levesque, in a thick French accent, “but we’re having some fun.”

The Nordiques are the only major professional sports team to have been based in Quebec City, calling it home from 1972 when they started out in the World Hockey Association. In 1995, the Nordiques were granted membership into the NHL, however, financial troubles made it difficult for them to complete in a new age of rising player salaries, and they moved to the United States where they became the Colorado Avalanche.

Many members of the boisterous group said that they believe the Nordiques will return soon, and in the form of the Phoenix Coyotes, who’ve been owned by the NHL since 2009.

“For myself, I would say next year, but for the majority of the people here, even my boyfriend, they’ll say in these coming few months. But for sure I’ll say next year because they’re building a big arena and it will be ready in two years in 2015.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Friday, 04.06.2012 / 3:56 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

As a high school freshman, Patrick Kane attended Detroit Country Day for the 2003-04 school year. (Photo by Getty Images)
Comedian Robin Williams and CNN host Sr. Sanjay Gupta are a few of the prominent former high school students to pass through the prestigious halls of Detroit Country Day in suburban Oakland County.

And while politicians, actors, business executives and other athletes, like NBA stars Shane Battier, Chris Webber and JaVale McGee round-out the laundry list of Yellowjackets alums, NHL players aren’t in abundance at the century-old private school. In fact, there’s just one such player, Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane, who attended the campus in Bloomfield Township.

A hockey prodigy as a young child in Buffalo, New York, Kane moved to suburban Detroit where he played for Detroit HoneyBaked. He was just 14-years-old when he was invited to live with former NHL star Pat Verbeek and his family.

It was a complete culture change for Kane, who quickly needed to assimilate to the Country Day rules and environment.

“That school is unbelievable,” he said. “Obviously one of the nicest high schools that I’ve ever been to, but really professional, classy and the only school that I had to show up to wearing nice slacks, a nice shirt and tie and the Country Day sport coat. That was a little different, but it was fun, I really enjoyed it.”

Country Day students must compete on two athletic teams each year, however, because he played junior hockey, Kane was exempt.

“I wanted to play basketball but it just didn’t work out with my schedule,” he said. “I actually tried out for the team and made the JV team but it didn’t work out to where I could play. It was the same with some of the other sports, because I would have liked to play lacrosse, but it didn’t work out.”

A year later, Kane was invited to join the U.S. National Team Development program in Ann Arbor. He transferred to Huron High School and became a University of Michigan football fan.

“It was different, more traditional, a public high school with a lot of different ethnicities,” Kane said, “but it was cool from a learning experience because I hung out with some new friends, it was a different experience but after a couple of weeks you feel comfortable anywhere.”

But raised on Buffalo sports teams like the Sabres and Bills, Kane was astonished with his first glimpse into of Michigan Stadium, nicknamed the ‘Big House’ which seats 115,000 college football fans on crisp fall Saturday afternoons.

“Oh yeah, I went to one or two (games) pretty much every year that I was there,” Kane said of Wolverines football. “My billet family had a couple of season tickets, so those were fun games to see how big that place really is. I don’t remember who they played in the first game that I went to, but I remember they blew them out. I went to an Iowa game that was pretty interesting, a really good game. And of course you want to go to the Ohio State game but I missed that one.”

Another don’t-miss game, Kane said, will be on New Year’s Eve when the Big House is turned into the world’s largest hockey stage ever built when the Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2012 Winter Classic.

“I know that it’s going to be really exciting for those teams with 115,000 people that you’re playing in front of when usually we’re playing in front of 18,000 to 22,000 every night,” Kane said. “That seems like a lot for us some nights and we’re entertaining a lot of people. Now you quadruple that, that’s pretty amazing and that’s definitely a game that you would want to be playing in.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose



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POSTED ON Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 12:36 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Darren Helm was back on the ice Thursday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in San Jose on March 17. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
It came as a surprise to Darren Helm, but he was happy to learn that his rehabilitation for his strained left knee was ready to take the next step.

“Before I came in today I wasn’t even sure when I’d be on the ice,” the Red Wings center said. “They wanted me to get on there now, and it felt better than I thought. It’s still a ways a way I think, but it still helps a lot mentally.”

For the first time since his knee-to-knee collision with San Jose’s Dominic Moore at HP Pavilion, Helm was back on the ice Thursday, less than three weeks since the St. Patrick’s Day injury.

The original diagnosis for Helm was 4-6 weeks, which would mean that at the very least he would be sidelined through the first few games of the opening playoff series. So the next few hours will be a big indicator for Helm’s recovery, but if there’s no setback, he could return to the Wings’ lineup sooner than first anticipated.

“Previously they told me probably not Game 1,” Helm said. “So I’m not going to be super angry if it’s not Game 1. Obviously, I want to be back. We have to play it as safe as possible right now. If I re-hurt it, it could be the rest of the year; but at the same time I don’t want to milk it too much. It’s a pretty exciting time and I want to get out there.”

And coach Mike Babcock certain would like for his speedy center back to anchor his aggressive third line.

“We could really use Helmer,” Babcock said. “As everyone knows just in watching us play, we’re not near as good a team without him. We have way less depth, and we don’t come at you near as hard. He can really help our team, and the sooner he’s back the better for us. … It was great to see him out there tooling around.” 

Fitted with a metal brace, Helm skated for nearly an hour without much limitation.

“I think the biggest thing is tomorrow, to see how it feels after this skate,” said Helm, who had nine goals and 17 assists. “If it feels good, we can keep pushing it more each day and I can go out and skate with the team. These last two days I think it made a pretty big jump.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Monday, 04.02.2012 / 2:58 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Red Wings defenseman Ian White visited his White's Warriors guests - Donald and Rose Fritz of Traverse City, Mich. - during Sunday's game at Joe Louis Arena. (Photo by Alexa Hinds)
Ian White wasn’t much of a history buff while growing up in Steinbach, Manitoba. But by the time he was in his late teens the Red Wings’ defenseman began absorbing stories told by family members of his grandfather’s involve in World War II.

“He was actually pretty quiet about the whole experience, I guess a lot of them are,” White said of his grandpa, who was part of the D-Day invasion on the shores of Normandy with the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. “But once you’re old enough to start remembering stuff you hear things for sure.”

It’s those memories that made Sunday’s meet-and-greet with Corporal Donald Fritz even more special.

See for White, who has given a pair of tickets to U.S. and Canadian military personnel for each Wings regular-season home game this season, Sunday’s guest brought home particular thoughts of his grandpa’s war stories.

Like White’s grandpa, Cpl. Fritz – albeit with the U.S. Army’s 306th Military Police Escort Guard – was also in Normandy fighting the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

Originally assigned to guard Japanese prisoners taken from the Aleutians to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin, Fritz was later ordered to England, where he landed on Utah Beach on June 8, 1944. Once in France, Fritz’s guard unit oversaw the first POW camp of German prisoners taken from the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, which had been established by the First Ranger Battalion.

In all, Fritz, who will celebrate his 90th birthday next month, participated in three European campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, and Rhineland. His duties included collecting prisoners and establishing camps, where he was responsible for guarding up to 5,000 German prisoners.

Luckily for Donald Fritz and Rose, his wife of 69-years, the two lifelong Wings’ fans didn’t have to wait long before they meet their host. White, who was healthy scratch for Sunday’s game against Florida, surprised the Fritzes with an unscheduled visit to their lower bowl seats during the game.

“He’s obviously a great story and it was great to see him come down here,” White said.

It’s hard to know who enjoyed Sunday’s visit the most, but being the grandson of a WWII veteran is a huge sense of pride for White, who has enjoyed meeting each and every veteran this season.

“Without question, yes, especially when you have a family member who is fighting for the life that we’re allowed to live today is pretty special,” he said. “Pretty much each and every one of their experiences is amazing to hear, whether it was World War II or more recently Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s really hard to imagine what they go through on a daily basis.

“It’s hard to hear what guys are going through every day and how they’re fighting over there and basically sacrificing their lives for our freedoms and our values. It’s tough to say that I could do it, but it’s amazing what they do.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose


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POSTED ON Monday, 03.26.2012 / 7:00 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Jimmy Howard suffered a broken right index finger in early February. He hopes to return from a groin injury this week. (Photo by Getty Images)
Finally!

The Red Wings may likely see three more key players come off of the injury list this week with goalie Jimmy Howard, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and forward Johan Franzen returning to the lineup, hopefully, by Friday.

Ericsson and Franzen both said Monday that they haven’t ruled out Wednesday’s game at Columbus, though Friday’s home game against Nashville is more likely for all three players.

After Monday’s morning skate, coach Mike Babcock was surprised to learn that Ericsson, who has missed 13 games with a fractured left wrist, wasn’t ready to return tonight.

“He was shooting the puck through the end of the rink today,” Babcock said. “But they (team medical staff) keep telling me he's not, so I don't know.”

If the Wings’ injured trio returns no later than Friday it would give them five tune-up games to prepare for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which begin April 11.

Howard said that his strained groin is feeling better and a return Friday against the Predators is “on the right track.”

“I’ve been working here pretty hard, doing a lot of treatment,” Howard said. “Felt like I can do everything. Now let's see if it holds up. Now continue to keep practicing for a couple of days and we'll see.”

The third piece to the injury puzzle is Franzen, who has had back spasms since he left practice early on March 16.

Franzen had an MRI that was negative, or as he said, “Just looked like an old hockey player's back. Yeah, a 32-year-old hockey player's back.”

Injuries have been a mounting problem for the Wings in the last month with 12 different players missing a total of 85 games due to injury or illness since Feb. 21.



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POSTED ON Tuesday, 03.20.2012 / 2:11 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Former Notre Dame forward Riley Sheahan signed an entry-level contract with the Red Wings on Tuesday and will report to Grand Rapids this week. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)
The Red Wings signed Riley Sheahan to an amateur tryout Tuesday afternoon.

The Wings’ former first-round draft pick in 2010 finished his junior season at the University of Notre Dame last week when the Fighting Irish were eliminated in the CCHA playoffs.

“He’s a big, strong power forward and very responsible with the puck, good two-way defensively and still has good offensive skills,” Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill said.

In three seasons with the Irish, Sheahan collected 20 goals and 44 assists in 114 collegiate games.

The 6-foot-2, 212-pound native of St. Catharine’s, Ontario will finish out the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings’ top minor-league affiliate in the American Hockey League.

“It’s obviously very exciting just to be in the organization and around all of these great players and I’ll just have to work my way up, and in a few years maybe get a chance to play in the big league," said Sheahan, who was studying sociology in South Bend. “Leaving Notre Dame was a tough decision. I made a lot of close friends there, met a lot of really nice people, but I think it was time to move on. My focus is on being a hockey player and I think the better atmosphere for that he being here.”

Though he averaged 21-points per season at the college level, Sheahan was a dynamite offensive weapon in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League where he had 49 goals and 85 assists in two seasons.
 
“That’s a little bit with the style of the team that he played on, college hockey is very tight, defensively and that’s kind of the style that you see down there,” Nill said. “He’s had a history of being a scorer ever since he was in Tier II.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill


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POSTED ON Saturday, 03.17.2012 / 5:26 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Mike Babcock played Pebble Beach last week, where this stunning house, which is for sale for $79 million, is next to the 10th green. (Photo by Carmel Reality Company)
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Seems odd for a guy who has hunted buffalo in Tanzania and coached championship hockey teams at every level, but Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn’t have a list of things that he wants to do before he dies.

However, if Babcock did have a bucket list, playing golf at world-famous Pebble Beach on California’s Monterey Peninsula, probably would be on it – but not anymore.

Last Thursday morning, Babcock and assistant coaches Bill Peters and Jeff Blashill played the challenging 7,040-yard golf course.

“I was outstanding as always. I live for golf like you have no idea; no I really don’t like golf really,” Babcock joked. “I liked going to Pebble Beach, it was a fantastic day and it was a good thing to do on an off-day just to get away from what’s going on. In saying that when I went to the San Jose-Nashville game at night I was right back to where I was before I golfed.”

The coaching trio traveled to northern California ahead of the team following Wednesday’s 4-0 loss at Anaheim in order to play the course, which Golf Digest calls the sixth-best course in the America.

While Babcock’s respectable 21 under par round doesn’t pale in comparison to rounds shot by Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Tiger Woods or Graeme McDowell, who all won U.S. Open championships at Pebble Beach, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that the Wings’ coach won't soon forget.

“It was a one and only, unless you’re going to lend me the cash,” said Babcock, of the $530 greens fees.

But besides playing one of the most majestic courses in the world, Babcock was spellbound by the stone chateau – once owned by actor Gene Hackman – for sale near the 10th green.

“I enjoyed it very much, it was an impressive place,” Babcock said. “I was very impressed with the house that was for sale for $79 million. I thought that was great.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill



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POSTED ON Friday, 03.16.2012 / 6:02 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that the return of Pavel Datsyuk will help jump-start the Red Wings' offense. (Photo by Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fighting for its playoff lives in the Western Conference, the San Jose Sharks won’t find any sympathy from the Red Wings, who, with 11 games remaining, are trying to hold onto the No. 4 seed in the standings.

“We’ve talked about these teams that are desperate teams,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “You know it’s interesting, from where I sit as a coach, I don’t know who could be more desperate than us. I don’t even begin to understand that. If you’re playing well and everything is going good, maybe they could be more desperate. But if you’re a group like we are right now and you’re trying to get your game back, to me, there’s no one who should be more desperate than us.”

There’s no need to look beyond the current health situation to understand the Wings’ desperation. Since Feb. 20, when Pavel Datsyuk underwent knee surgery, nine of his teammates have missed time with injury or illness. The latest is forward Johan Franzen (back spasms), who may miss sidelined for Saturday’s game against the Sharks at HP Pavilion. 

While Datsyuk’s return is good news, losing Franzen is more adversity that the Wings don’t need as they try to tune-up for a long playoff run this spring. Without Datsyuk, the Wings have posted a 3-7-1 record and the power play has suffered mightily, garnering three goals in the last 44 attempts.

Because injuries have forced the Wings to juggle lines, thus messing with continuity and chemistry, Babcock would like to see his team get back to the basics.

“I went to the (Sharks) game last night and Nashville scored a power-play goal on a simple down and in, threw it in,” he said. “San Jose shot the puck, had a man in the middle and tipped and came right to a guy and they shot it right into the net. No different than a lot of the things we’re doing, but the puck’s not going into the net for us, so that’s usually confidence, and we just have to keep plugging away and working. Obviously, Pavel back would really help.”
 
The Sharks, like the other two teams on this California trip, are on the outside looking in at the playoffs. But if the Wings learned anything in back-to-back losses at Los Angeles and Anaheim this week – by a combined 9-2 score – it’s that they can’t look past the Sharks.

“They’re like every team,” Babcock said, of the Sharks. “Right now, in their last three games they’ve worked real hard, they’ve limited the other team’s opportunity, they’ve gotten the pucks to the net, their power play is relentless on retrieval, they get the puck back. They’ve got a good team.

“It should be a heck of a hockey game. They’ve got points in three straight with five (points) out of a possible six points.”
 
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill





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POSTED ON Thursday, 03.15.2012 / 2:52 AM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Sen. John McCain and his former presidential running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin displays a Red Wings jersey given to her as a gift during a campaign event at the Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights, Michigan in Sept. 2008. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, Calif. – In HBO’s recently released film adaptation of the 2008 presidential election, actress Julianne Moore, who plays former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, sports a Red Wings’ home jersey in one lengthy scene.

She also is seen wearing Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers jerseys. But the better of the three sweaters, clearly, is the Wings’ jersey which also received the most air time in the made-for-cable movie.

Palin, who coined herself as “America’s Hockey Mom”, was given hockey jerseys as gifts wherever she appeared along the campaign trial as she traveled the U.S. in her bid for the White House as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.

Palin received a Wings jersey before she and GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain addressed a rally at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, Michigan on Sept. 5, 2008 (see photo).

But it’s in the movie “Game Change” that Moore – as Palin – wears a red Wings jersey during a debate rehearsal outside on Sen. MacCain’s Arizona estate.

However, the eye-popping moment occurs when the scene switches to a different camera angle which reveals a No. 40 on the back of the jersey.

Now since there’s no name on the back of the jersey (at least in the movie), and the six Wings players, including Henrik Zetterberg, to ever represent the number aren’t American, it’s easy to surmise that the Wings' latest star is the intended honoree, and not Bill Ranford, Mark Major, Jason York, Gord Kruppke or Rogie Vachon, who all wore the number prior to Zetterberg.

“Of course, it’s Z, he’s a rock star,” said goalie Jimmy Howard, one of four Americans on the current Wings’ roster.

It’s not known if the jersey that Palin received on the sun-shiny afternoon had a number on it, or why the movie’s costume directors made the decision to include the number. We may never know the answer, but it sure was fun to see the love for Zetterberg, whether it was intended or not.

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill


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POSTED ON Monday, 03.12.2012 / 9:45 PM
By Bill Roose - Managing Editor | DetroitRedWings.com / The Wheel Deal

Nicklas Lidstrom hopes to return to the Red Wings' lineup soon and rejoin his defensive partner Ian White. (Photo by Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – You can just tell by his voice that he’s feed-up with answering the questions about the injury that has forced him to miss six consecutive games, and will likely keep him out of the lineup for at least another two.

The level of frustration is understandable, especially since Nicklas Lidstrom and injuries are rarely used in the same sentence. But the ankle injury is forcing Lidstrom to go somewhere he’s never gone.

“I didn't think it was going to take this long,” Lidstrom said of his sore right ankle. “I thought I was going to be back earlier. It's been lingering, it hasn't been getting any better, so it's getting a little bit frustrating.”

The seven-time Norris Trophy winner was injured when he was struck by a puck on the outside of the ankle on Feb. 25. The play was innocent enough, when Colorado’s Jan Hedja rimmed a center ice shot around the back of the Wings’ net. But the puck took an odd bounce, clipping the Wings’ star defenseman high on the right boot.

On Monday, Lidstrom tried to skate in full gear for the first time in nearly 2 ½ weeks, but the soreness crept in pretty quickly forcing him off the ice before the Wings’ practice got underway at the Toyota Sports Center.

“I tried it a few days ago. It was better today, I could do a few laps but still not where I want it to be to be able to play a game or practice with the guys,” he said. “It's day-by-day right now. Just have to wait and see, hopefully it gets better every day.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock has already counted Lidstrom out for the next two games – Tuesday at Los Angeles and Wednesday at Anaheim – meaning the 41-year-old will have missed nine games – counting the Montreal game when he had the flu – which, unfortunately, is a single-season personal low for him.

The longest stretch that Lidstrom has missed in any one season is six games after he fell awkwardly on his knee following a body check – oddly enough against the Avalanche – in February 2008. Until this season, six was also the most games he ever missed in a season.

Tuesday’s game will be the 42nd game, including Stanley Cup playoffs, which Lidstrom has missed in his 20-season career. And one of those was to serve an NHL suspension for not fulfilling an obligation at the 2009 All-Star Game.

The ankle continues to be problem and sometimes walking has been a source of discomfort. But the biggest obstacle seems to be with the pressure caused by the boot once the laces are tied, Lidstrom said.

However, he is optimistic of a possible return during this trip with an eye on San Jose Saturday in the final game of the Wings’ three-game swing through California.

“You want to get a skate or two good skates in before you're able to play again," Lidstrom said. “I'm hoping to play quite a few games before the playoffs. It'll help to get back into game-shape again and in the long run you hope the rest will help, everyone that's out right now, to help us get a long run in the playoffs.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill



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