Training Camp Thoughts

DETROIT – While Red Wings players will use Traverse City as a home base over the next 48 hours, going through morning skates before traveling to road preseason games, I’m back here in the D.

Just some thoughts:

– Mike Babcock seems to really like Gustav Nyquist, who scored in Tuesday’s Red & White game. The University of Maine product was named a Hobey Baker finalist in 2011.

– We wouldn’t be able to do anything in Traverse City without the help of the numerous volunteers who gave up their time to make the Prospects Tournament and Training Camp a success.

– It was great to meet Kyle Kujawa, who just landed a full-time job in the Grand Rapids PR department. Once upon a time, Kyle ran ‘Babcock’s Death Stare’, proving once again that you can turn blogging into a legitimate sports job.

– Tomas Holmstrom on what he’s seen throughout the first few days in Traverse City.

“I think we have lots of speed, lots of young, good kids. We just have to be healthy, have good preseason games and be ready for game one.”

– For Drew Miller, and others, like GM Ken Holland, getting off to a good start is critical.

“You want to get as many wins as you can in October and November,” Miller said. “You want to stockpile those, because at the end of the season, teams who have a lot of wins at the beginning aren’t fighting for their life to get into the playoffs.”

  • Ted Kulfan has your lines for tonight’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh.
  • The NHL now has a social media policy. Our friends at the Nightmare on Helm Street put it in perspective.
  • On the Wings has some quick thoughts from camp. Well worth the read.
  • The biggest off-ice story of the upcoming season is going to be potential realignment, with your Red Wings right in the middle of it. Puck Daddy takes a look at the latest on that front.
Posted in Around the Rink, Mike Babcock, Red Wings | Leave a comment

Training Camp: Day One

TRAVERSE CITY – Just a wrap up of Training Camp coverage. I’ll try to keep fans up to date as time permits. In the meantime, follow the club on Twitter and Facebook for the very latest updates.

  • Pavel Datsyuk will honor his former teammate Ruslan Salei, by sporting the number 24 throughout training camp. It is a very classy move by Pav, who has obviously been hit hard by the Russian plane tragedy.
  • Following Saturday’s practice, the team attended the funeral of former assistant coach Brad McCrimmon.
  • The Grand Rapids News has a story about former Griffins players excelling with the Red Wings. Just a reminder, we’ll be out in Western Michigan for our Red & White scrimmage on Tuesday, September 27th.
  • Tomas Tatar, who scored a goal in his first NHL game last season, is in Traverse City looking to impress.
  • Pretty bummed that the legendary George Malik is not here with us at camp. He is currently battling some personal issues. Best wishes George!
  • Patrick Eaves will play alongside Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk to start camp, a notable promotion for him. Mike Babcock has been complementary of the former Boston College star, pointing out that he is very ‘coach-like’ on the ice. Not surprisingly, Eaves’ father is the head coach at the University of Wisconsin.
  • The Octopus Thrower is a Jimmy Howard believer.

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Freeze Warning in Traverse City

There is a chill in the air.

I’m not waxing poetically in saying that either.

While speaking with members of our club before a Traverse City sendoff, I could see my breath in the sky, a sure sign that hockey season is right around the corner.

The team headed north this morning, while I head up tomorrow. Christy Hammond and Rick Bowness, two of our PR gurus, are with a few members of our team on a Community Relations tour throughout the state. If you see any of us along the way, feel free to stop us and say hello.

“Each year at this time everybody believes they have a chance,” said Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “The reality is, only eight of those teams in the West are going to get in and we want to be one of them.”

That’s the reality in the eyes of the coaching staff. I’m sure our fans expect the very best product we can put out there night after night.

“We’ve had some early exits that a lot of the guys here are not used to,” Dan Cleary said. “Obviously, we don’t like that. It’s going to be a big season. We got Nick Lidstrom back, so that’s always a plus.”

Justin Abdelkader visits the DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids as part of the Red Wings Community Service tour

  • Jiri Hudler hopes some UFC style off-season training helps his game.
  • Darren McCarty has a new job that may, or may not surprise you.
  • The NHL Network will be broadcasting select preseason games, including the Wings opener against Pittsburgh on September 21st.

Jake Duhaime is the Social Networking Manager for the Detroit Red Wings. You can follow him on Twitter at @jakeduhaime.

Posted in Around the Rink, Detroit Red Wings | Leave a comment

Why are they Hockeytowns? Your winners!

On Friday, we asked fans to tell us why Grand Rapids and Traverse City were Hockeytowns. The following 50-75 word passages will be rewarded with a pair of tickets to that city’s respective Red & White games.

Why is Grand Rapids a Hockeytown? While I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada in southwestern Ontario on Saturday evenings, my kids grew up in Grand Rapids, watching hockey on Saturday nights at the Van, catching today’s Griffins and tomorrow’s Red Wings. Grand Rapids also is where my kids learned to skate on Reeds Lake and backyard rinks. Simply put: Grand Rapids is where my kids fell in love with hockey, and I’ll forever be grateful to GR.
– Phil de Haan

“If one was to randomly find themselves walking about downtown Grand Rapids on any given Friday night, they would discover a city of people draped in navy, white, and red. The exception of anybody not wearing the colors of the Griffins will be draped in red and white hats, t-shirts, and fans using their jerseys as a billboard proudly showing their Griffins’ heritage with the names Hudler, Howard, Flippula. This is Grand Rapids, rightly known as “Hockeytown West.”
– Ryan Clark

I’ll try and keep this short and sweet because I’m sure you have read thousands of desperate pleas of incredible devotion to our hometown favorite hockey team. However, my story is not that of some astronomical obsession with the Wings. In fact, I don’t watch hockey. The true story is that of my roommate at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. I have never met a more dedicated, passionate, or annoying Red Wings fan. With the amount of information this kid retains about hockey history and the wings, it amazes me that he has the mental capacity to major in chemistry…and be good at it. The real objective of this letter is to get him out of the room so he can see his team behind mesh, and not a TV screen. And so I can have a night where I do not hear him bark at Sports Center for not covering more hockey games. Thank you for your time, and please make my roommates year with tickets to this hockey game. Oh ya, and Grand Rapids is definitely a hockey town.

Nick Anderson

People come from all over the world to visit Traverse City. They come to see our beaches and the clear blue water. Some come to see the Cherry trees or the grapes for our wines.

But what us locals look forward to each year, is when the Red Wings come to town. That means its Hockey time, in Hockeytown. Let Go Wings !!!!
– Don Frank

Traverse City is the perfect hockey town because we know how to show our Wings a good time. Not only do we provide them with all the ice time they need, we entertain them with golf, sailing, fishing, and great restaurants to dine at. We are respectful fans; we try to give them their space but still take any advantage to meet one of the stars of the ice. We are true Wing Nuts!
– Patty Hirst

You call Traverse City Hockeytown for its residents love of the game. I call Traverse City Hockeytown because of its diversity, just like our Detroit Red Wings. In each game, the Red Wings pull from the variety of strengths of the players. Traverse City has the same diversity it pulls from each year. From the winter snowmobiling, to the fall color tours along with swimming, boating, fishing, and golfing filling in the summer months.
– Mike Buchanan

Congrats to all of our winners!

  • In other news, our organization would like to thank the 4,000 or so fans who joined us at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday for HockeyFest. The event was a major success and a tremendous way to kick off the 2011-12 season. We couldn’t have done it without you.
  • Two signs that the new season is right around the corner? NHL preview magazines are on the shelves at your local Meijer and EA Sports NHL 12 comes out tomorrow.
  • There was a beautiful story by Michael Rosenberg in Friday’s Free Press about Mike Babcock’s speech to the Livonia and Novi chambers of commerce and how it paid tribute to Ruslan Salei and Brad McCrimmon.
  • Pavel Datsyuk chats with Dmitry Chesnokov about the tragic Lokomotiv Yaroslavl crash.
Posted in Around the Rink, Detroit Red Wings | 3 Comments

Taking Hockeytown on the Road

The Red Wings visit Traverse City and Grand Rapids this month

Hey fans!

As most of you know by now, we’re very excited to visit Traverse City for Training Camp and Grand Rapids for our Red & White game.

And that’s where we need your help!

We want you to tell us why these two tremendous Michigan locations are ‘Hockeytowns’ in their own unique way. We’ll post the very best 50-75 word responses on the Hockeytown Blog and give three lucky winners for each city a pair of tickets to the respective Red & White game in their location. That’s Tuesday, September 20th for Traverse City and Tuesday, September 27th for Grand Rapids.

Sounds easy enough? Here’s what you need to do.

Email your 50-75 word response to the following prompt to redwingssocialmedia@gmail.com by 5 P.M. on Monday, September 12th. Please include your name and address with your response!

Why (Traverse City / Grand Rapids) is a Hockeytown?

Have fun!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Babcock, Lidstrom transcripts

Transcripts from this morning’s media availability with Mike Babcock and Nick Lidstrom regarding the tragic plane crash in Russia.

MIKE BABCOCK
What can you tell us about the news out of Russia this morning?
“I’ve heard everything that you’ve heard and all of the speculation but we’ve had no confirmation on anything. I know that Brad was on the flight but that’s all I know.

Obviously it’s been a tough day around here and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and we’re very concerned. We know his kids well. He’s a good man and was a real big part of our organization here so we’re hoping we’ll get good news.”

When did you first hear about the crash and have you spoken with Brad’s family at all?

“I went to Brad’s house with my wife this morning and they weren’t there. I received quite a few calls as you can imagine throughout the morning so I did some checking on my own to confirm whether he was on the flight or not.”

There was a report that Ruslan might have already been in Minsk at the time of the crash
“That’s just speculation so I can’t comment on that. We’re all hopeful.”

Talk about Ruslan as a player and as a person
“He’s a great guy. A family guy. We’re all hopeful he wasn’t on the flight. He was a big part of our team here and a big part of our team out in Anaheim when we had good years there. His family meant a lot to him and I sent him home, I don’t know how many times, to see his family. We’re all praying and we’re hopeful at this time that they’re both fine.”

NICK LIDSTROM
What can you tell us about the news out of Russia this morning?
“I was told (about the crash) this morning when we were in here (Red Wings locker room) working out. Pavel (Datsyuk) came in and said that there was a plane that went down somewhere in Russia and the Lokomotiv team was on there. That’s pretty much all we know so far.”

Have you heard any specifics on the crash?

“No. I saw some pictures online of the plane wreckage but as to why or how it went down, I haven’t heard anything about that.”

Do you know for sure if Brad and Ruslan were on board?
“We haven’t heard any confirmation about who was on the plane or anything like that yet, or what happened exactly, just speculation. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of everyone involved and obviously we’re hoping for the best but we haven’t heard anything for sure yet.”

How’s the team feeling right now?
“The team is feeling pretty down after hearing what happened this morning. We were just about to step on the ice when Pavel came in and told us what had happened. It’s pretty quiet in there (the locker room) right now.”

Tell us what’s special about Brad and Ruslan from your time together with them

“They’re both special in their own ways. Rusty (Salei) was a team player who played well for us and Beast (McCrimmon) I’ve known for a long time. He was my (defensive) partner my first year in the league over here and he was my roommate too so I got to know him real well. He helped me out a lot my first year over here and when he became an assistant coach for us I thought he brought a lot of valuable experience that helped us. I thought he was really good with the defense, especially the younger guys, and everyone learned a lot from him.”

Did it surprise you when Brad went to the KHL to coach?
“I know he wanted to be a head coach, to see what it was like running his own team, so he decided to do that in Russia and we all wished him well when we heard the news. It was what he felt he had to do to move up in his coaching career.”

How big of a loss is this for the hockey world?

“I think it’s a huge loss for the hockey world, something like this happening… It’s very tragic.”

Brad seemed like one of those guys who always had a smile on his face, always looking on the bright side of life

“Yeah, he’s a happy-go-lucky guy who brought a lot of positive energy to the rink. I thought he was a great assistant coach for us. He really helped out a lot of the younger d-men and encouraged them when things weren’t going their way. I thought he was a great mentor for them.”

What did you learn from Brad as a young NHL defenseman?

“He was more of a stay-at-home defenseman so that gave me the opportunity to jump up in the play and be a part of the offense. He was my partner every game in my rookie year and he was a stable, steady defenseman. He also protected me in certain situations when things got a little heated so he was a great partner to have.”

It seemed that Ruslan really missed his family during his lone season in Detroit

“Yeah, I think it was hard on him, being away from his family last year and he made a lot of trips back to California to see them. I know it wasn’t easy on him but he loves playing hockey and that’s why he wanted to be here and be a part of our team.”

Posted in Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock, Nick Lidstrom, Red Wings | 3 Comments

“Ace” Bailey – June 13, 1948 – September 11, 2001

Ace Bailey would spend parts of two seasons with the Red Wings - Photo: Ace Bailey Foundation

The tribute is small, but it is worth its weight in significance.

Yours truly spent four seasons covering hockey at Boston’s TD Garden before landing in the Motor City. On the press level of that building, located high, high, high above the ice, two things immediately stand out to first time visitors.

1) The best dessert cart in the sport, the envy of journalists in 29 other markets
2) The small plaque that marks Ace Bailey’s seat

As a Director of Pro Scouting for the Los Angeles Kings, Garnet Edward “Ace” Bailey was a regular in that press box. It was a hop, skip and a jump away from the team’s minor league operations in Manchester, New Hampshire, not to mention a short drive away from his Lynnfield, Massachusetts home.

Bailey is best known as a member of two Stanley Cup winning clubs with the Boston Bruins, scoring a crucial goal against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the 1972 Stanley Cup championship series. He spent two seasons sporting the Winged Wheel, a move that former Detroit coach Johnny Wilson told the Detroit Free Press, added muscle to his team. Upon retirement, Bailey played a key role in the Oilers 1980’s dynasty, most of which came by serving as an advance scout.

Ace Bailey, along with fellow Kings scout Mark Bavis, were killed when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. A moment that defined a generation had taken two of hockey’s own.

In the years that followed, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, a coach in Manchester at the time, revealed that he too was supposed to be on that flight, but was asked by Kings GM Andy Murray to be at a pre-training camp meeting in Los Angeles a day earlier. Boudreau tried to convince Bailey to change his flight and join him, but Ace didn’t want to hit the team with the $750 bill to do so.

Since that dreadful day, Bailey has been memorialized in many ways, including that plaque in the TD Garden Press Box. There is also a foundation that helps improve hospital programs for children. And the Kings honored Bailey by naming their ‘Most Inspirational Player’ award, and the team mascot after Ace.

Two other facts you may not have known about Bailey.

  • Bailey was Wayne Gretzky’s first roommate in Edmonton.
  • Ace met his wife Kathy, a flight attendant for Eastern Airlines, on a flight during his Bruins days.

None of us will ever forget where we were on September 11th, but is also important that we never forget who we lost. Though I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Bailey, seeing that plaque in the TD Garden Press Box makes me remember that day, its significance and what it meant at a very personal level.

It is a small token of appreciation, but one that will never be forgotten.

Jake Duhaime is the Manager of Social Networking for the Detroit Wings. Follow him on Twitter – @jakeduhaime

Posted in Around the Rink, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey | 9 Comments

Kindl finds his place in ‘Pure Michigan’

Jakub Kindl was no stranger to Detroit during the three-month offseason, attending Tigers games at Comerica Park, season ticket holder luncheons at the Joe, along with a bevy of other local activities.

While he did manage to get home to the Czech Republic, Kindl joked that the amount of rain the country had seen over the last few months made his Michigan decision a wise one. After all, the state’s summer conditions and landscape provided ample opportunity for the 24 year-old to find some adventure.

“You guys have so many lakes, they’re like oceans,” Kindl said. “Where I’m from, we don’t even have that many lakes, and they’re not that big.”

“I’ve never driven a boat before and I had a buddy who had one and let me drive it. All in all, it was a great experience.”

AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE

  • With the retirements of Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom are the last pieces of the Golden Era.
  • Speaking of Chris Osgood, he’s been around Joe Louis Arena, this time in a coaching capacity.
  • The Nightmare on Helm Street chimes in on the first of many pre-season rankings that will surface over the next few weeks.
  • Dynasty, or not a dynasty. That’s the debate on Winging it in Motown.
  • Mr. Ice Guy offers his take of the 25 coolest goalie masks of all-time.
Posted in Around the Rink | 1 Comment

So close you can feel it

There's a special type of paint for the rink at Joe Louis Arena

Joe Louis Arena is the coldest it has been in months.

It has nothing to do with the weather outside, which until this afternoon, had been quite comfortable. It has everything to do with Al Sobotka and his crew building a new ice-surface inside of our fabled home.

The process started on Monday, ending with a christening of the rink this morning by a number of players, including Nick Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom, Justin Abdelkader, Drew Miller, Patrick Eaves, Jakub Kindl and Valtteri Filppula.

Over the last few days, players have been taking part in informal practices here in Detroit. We’ve seen the big guns like Lidstrom, guys from other clubs, minor league players, even minor league talent from other teams. The mood is light, mostly hands-off and very relaxed. Think about the day before the first day of classes in high school, when everyone is there to pick up books and class schedules. There’s a good mix between serious and social, focusing on the task ahead, while enjoying those last few precious moments of summer freedom.

Two other notes:

  • Tickets for all 2011-12 games at Joe Louis Arena go on sale tomorrow at noon EDT.
  • Hockeyfest takes place on September 10th, also at Joe Louis Arena and features interactive games, Q and A panels and autograph sessions with many of your favorite players. Visit www.detroitredwings.com for ticket and event information.
Posted in Around the Rink | 1 Comment

One Million Strong?

In a social media universe, vacation doesn’t exist. It is merely time spent out of the office, somewhere in this great country of ours, constantly checking a cell phone/laptop with OCD tendencies.

And while sites like HootSuite exist to help the cause, I’m not the biggest fan. You see, hockey news breaks, literally and figuratively. You always need to be prepared to take that call, to break the story, to engage Hockeytown’s finest.

So while I was at dinner on Thursday night, showing an old colleague of mine from the dearly departed Comcast Network how he needed to be up on the latest and greatest in social media, I noticed something stranger than an East Coast earthquake.

Our Facebook page was growing.

And growing.

And growing.

Not that the page doesn’t grow on a daily basis, because as we all know, we really do have the best fan base in professional sports, but it was the rate of growth that was odd. Every few minutes, the Official Detroit Red Wings Facebook page seemed to have a thousand new fans, it was something we didn’t even see during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The natural inclination is to be skeptical.

So as we hunker down for Hurricane Irene on the East Coast, enjoying the last precious few moments of vacation, I’m entertaining myself by watching Hockeytown digitally grow … and grow … and grow. On Wednesday, we were just over 600,000, on Friday night, we’re at just under 1.1 million.

In other words, its normal to second guess, to have an inkling of doubt, like Nick Papageorgio was in Vegas Vacation the first time he won something with a fake ID. At the very least, if push comes to shove and the other shoe drops, it was a wild ride, totally unscripted unlike some of the reality TV shows I have watched this week. (cough, Bachelor Pad, cough)

Other clubs have shown similar growth, including Pittsburgh and Chicago, two teams with incredibly passionate fan bases. I have also had the pleasure of connecting with colleagues on Tampa Bay and Vancouver on, where else, Twitter, asking if they were seeing similar patterns. And ditto with our friends from the Tigers.

The Red Wings page hit 1,000,000 ‘Likes’ just after 4:30 this afternoon. A while back, the U.S. Olympic Team was able to grab a screen shot of the lucky number, but, as I explained, we were growing by the second.

Here’s the best I could do…

Either way, I do know one thing. The Detroit Red Wings have the best fans in the National Hockey League. There isn’t a number that properly sums up the passion you have for our club.

And for that, we thank you!

Follow Jake Duhaime on Twitter at @jakeduhaime.

Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments