DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings kicked off the 2013-14 season this past Tuesday with the fifth annual MI Wings Community Tour presented by ITC. Players made stops at six locations throughout Michigan while en route to training camp in Traverse City.
The Community Tour is an opportunity for the players to give back to the fans by visiting areas in the Michigan community. Eleven players – Danny DeKeyser, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton, Jimmy Howard, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl, Drew Miller and Stephen Weiss – took part in this year’s tour visiting locations in Harrison Township, Frankenmuth, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Kalamazoo and Grand Haven.
The east leg of the tour, including players Danny DeKeyser, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton and Jimmy Howard, started off with a visit to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. Players were greeted by over 250 military members and their families.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard said it’s a wonderful experience getting to visit Selfridge, sign autographs and take photos with military members. “They’re the real heroes and to be able to come here and meet with them is great,” Howard said.
The next stop on the east tour was to List Elementary School in Frankenmuth where the players were greeted by a sea of red and white in the gymnasium for the school’s “Red, White and Hockey Day.” Players were prompted with pre-selected questions from the students themselves, followed by class photos with each grade and interviews of each of the players by a List Elementary student reporter.
List reporter Zoey asked Cory Emmerton what advice he can give for success, “I think the biggest thing is to work hard at everything you do, no matter what, and stay in school.”
The central leg of the tour stopped first at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing where players Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson got a tour of the facilities and were able to participate in a few training exercise. Players were able to ride along as State Troopers took them around a training course at top speed, giving them an idea of the kind of high intensity driving that these Troopers experience on a daily basis. The players signed autographs and posed for pictures in front of the Fallen Heroes Memorial.
“It’s a privilege to come out here and meet these recruits who are keeping us safe on the road and get to thank them for everything they do,” Kronwall said. “For us to get a chance to meet them in person is an honor.”
Ganiard Elementary, the second stop on the central tour, rolled out the red carpet for the arrival of the players, quite literally. Datsyuk, Ericsson and Kronwall arrived at Ganiard where the third and fourth grade Student Council members were eagerly waiting to greet the players at the end of a very bright “Red-Wings-Red” carpet. After a round of high fives and hugs, the players entered the gymnasium to the roar of over 400 students and staff members.
From one of the pre-selected student questions, the players were asked if they were all friends. Datsyuk put his arms around his teammates and said, “yeah, we’re best friends.” The crowd erupted into cheers.
After the assembly, each grade was able to take a class photo with the players. Players also signed items to be auctioned at this year’s Ganiard School Walk-a-thon.
The west leg of the tour brought players Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl, Drew Miller and Stephen Weiss to Bronson Children’s Hospital in Kalamazoo. The first room they visited was the “Room of Magic,” a special room for hospitalized patients to gather for events such as birthdays, movie nights, and more. The players interacted with a few patients in the room, including one high school patient they dubbed with the nickname “G” (short for George) who was recently hospitalized for a football injury. Abdelkader played quarterback when he was younger.
“It’s always nice coming out to these visits, whether it’s hospitals or schools, and seeing the kids with their smiles on their faces. It’s something I take a lot of pride in,” said Abdelkader of his Bronson visit.
The next stop was to the U.S. Coast Guard in Grand Haven where the players met with over a dozen “Coasties.” After posing for photos and signing autographs, the players got to take a ride on one of the two 47 foot lifeboats used by the Grand Haven Coast Guard. Kindl and Miller each took turns driving the boat.
“At first I was a little nervous, but once the Captain started giving me direction, it was really fun,” said Kindl.
Each location on the Community Tour received a personalized jersey autographed by the players that visited their location. Both Ganiard and List Elementary also received street hockey equipment donated on behalf of the Red Wings.
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