The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/01/12 at 05:10 PM ET
Of Red Wings-related note on a blustery Sunday afternoon:
• As Paul already noted, Blues defenseman Ian Cole has been summoned to the principal’s office for a hearing with Mr. Shanahan after checking Justin Abdelkader shoulder-first in Saturday’s 3-0 Wings win. I’m guessing that Cole’s going to be fined but not suspended given his status as a first-time offender and given that Abdelkader returned to play;
• Somewhat ironically given what NHL chief operating officer John Collins told the press on Saturday, USA Today’s Kevin Allen continues the media push for a Detroit area Winter Classic by ranking Michigan Stadium as the league’s best potential site for a future outdoor game (the Wings would prefer to hold the game at Comerica Park):
1. Ann Arbor, Mich.: If the Detroit Red Wings played the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium, they could put more than 117,000 fans into the University of Michigan’s Big House. Depending upon how tickets were sold, there could be as many Toronto fans as Detroit fans at the event. There is certainly enough of a following for the Maple Leafs in the USA to make it palatable for NBC. Detroit is due.
• Regarding Winter Classics of the most recent past, NHL.com’s Kevin Baker spoke to three-time outdoor game veteran Ty Conklin about his Winter classic memories...
The key to the game, which has played in a variety of conditions—win, snow, rain, brutal cold and bright sunlight—is to forget everything and “just go out and have fun.”
“It is a fun day, so you have to try to go out and enjoy it,” the 35-year-old Conklin says. “There’s no point in getting all wound up and worrying about it. The whole point of the game is to have fun.”
Conklin confesses, however, that playing outside does pose unique challenges. First off, Conklin says brighter is not better.
“My two games were pretty cloudy, so it wasn’t an issue, but at Wrigley we practiced on a nice and sunny day, and it was pretty hard to pick up the puck where the bright spots where sun was shining on the ice. Luckily, my games were both semi-overcast.”
And luckily for the goalies in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, cloudy skies are in the Philly forecast for Jan. 2.
Conklin also says that the 40-degree weather expected this year is a godsend. In the 2003 Heritage game in Edmonton, the minus-22 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a wind chill was “really cold.” Conklin remembers changing into gloves that were being heated on the bench during commercial breaks.
“I usually sweat a lot, but that day I didn’t sweat at all and was dry. I don’t like being dry in my gear and that affected me.”
• The Wings were quite happy to share their memories of taking part in the 2009 Winter Classic in this morning’s slate of Wings notebooks, and MLive finally fixed Ansar Khan’s article about the topic, so here are the observations Wings players shared with Khan:
I don’t think it’s going to get old at all,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I think the players would like to have five of them a year. I think they’re doing a real good job, marketing it well. It’s great that it’s in different venues and big-time stadiums. I think it’s very exciting for the players and for the league.”
Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall has fond memories of the 2009 event.
“I think everyone that was a part of it enjoyed it, big-time,” Kronwall said. “It wasn’t just the game, it was the whole surroundings. Lot of people (in the crowd), different type of building, just the whole experience, skating outside. It’s been a while since most of the guys did that. It was just awesome.”
“I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical at first,” Kronwall said. “I thought it was going to be freezing, that it wasn’t going to be that much fun. But as soon as you get out there you had a blast. Even skating around in practice was awesome. We were so lucky with the weather, too, it was perfect. People in Michigan would really enjoy it.”
The only thing Babcock would not like about the Winter Classic is being spotlighted in an HBO 24/7 special.
“I think (24/7) is great for the game, I think it’s great for the players,” Babcock said. “I’d rather not be involved in it. But if that’s part of what you’ve got to do to have the Winter Classic, you got to be involved. As a coach, the more you’re in (the game), the more you understand that it’s about the players.”
• As the Courier-Post’s Randy Miller points out, even if the Winter Classic is held at Michigan Stadium one day, some gentlemen from Michigan State University deserve the credit for trying to hold an outdoor game in the modern era:
As the story goes out in Lansing, Mich., a group of Michigan State officials got to talking one day and figured it would be pretty cool to watch hockey in a football stadium. These guys figured that most hockey players growing up in cold-weather cities had played on ponds and lakes and frozen backyard pools of water for years, so they deduced that players and fans would love taking it to a much bigger stage.
They didn’t know that there had been one NHL exhibition played outdoors many years ago that didn’t get much publicity: In February 1954, the Detroit Red Wings faced inmates from the Marquette Branch Prison, a game that they led 18-0 after one period. Nobody bothered keeping score the rest of the way.
Years later, the MSU officials began pushing and pushing their idea to school higher-ups, but for year after year it was laughed off. It took awhile, but eventually they found a believer with power. In the mid-1980s, Mark Hollis was passing out towels, sweeping floors and squirting water into the mouths of thirsty huffing-and-puffing hoopsters as student manager for the Michigan State basketball team. Now, he’s the school’s athletics director. Fittingly, he officially began his current gig on New Year’s Day 2008, the day the NHL staged its first Winter Classic.
Hollis was the university’s associate AD when he heard about the outdoor-hockey idea. He knew the Detroit Red Wings were kings in and around Hockeytown, but he also understood the college game had been very popular up in Michigan, too. Hollis took the idea to his bosses, not just for any game but one that local hockey fans really could get into. His persistence paid off, and on Oct. 6, 2001, Michigan State played host to hated in-state rival Michigan in Spartan Stadium.
“When we did it, I kind of equate it to the Apollo versus the space shuttle — it’s a heck of a lot easier now with the technology they have in place,” Hollis said years later. “When we executed the plan, it was basically a refrigeration system from Hollywood that chills the movie studios. We sort of had a makeshift ice rink out of that kind of system.”
The game was dubbed “The Cold War,” and 75,044 showed up — 103 percent capacity at the football stadium — and a record crowd for a hockey game anywhere on the planet. And that’s how hockey returning to its roots began.
I was there in the 20-degree temperatures and 5-degree wind chill, wondering why the Wings didn’t draft Mike Cammalleri and thinking that that Ryan Miller guy was going to be a decent goalie….
• Let’s stick with college hockey for a moment as the Kalamazoo Gazette’s Graham Couch notes that the Western Michigan University Broncos were rocked by a certain Wings head coach’s decision to go with a relative unknown as one of his assistant coaches…
In the spring of 2010, what was about to happen with Western Michigan University’s hockey program in 2011 was unfathomable. Broncos first-year coach Jeff Blashill coached WMU back to relevancy and then some, finishing in the top four in the CCHA, then beating Michigan at Joe Louis Arena to reach the CCHA tournament championship, before earning the school’s first NCAA tournament bid in 15 years. Then, as quickly as Blashill thrilled the Bronco hockey community, he was gone, lured by Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to be one of his assistant coaches, capping a nearly unprecedented meteoric rise from the USHL to Division I college hockey, to the NHL, in two years. WMU didn’t have time to cry. It ponied up and hired longtime NHL head coach Andy Murray. As all of this was happening, the CCHA was crumbling by force of the Big Ten’s new hockey league. In September, WMU secured its place in the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
• We’ll head back to the NHL via NHL.com’s John Kreiser’s slate of “Eye-Opening Numbers” from NHL games played in 2011…
5—Goals scored by Detroit’s Johan Franzen in the Wings’ 7-5 win at Ottawa on Feb. 2. It was the only five-goal game of 2011—and the first by an NHL player since Gaborik, then with Minnesota, did it against the Rangers on Dec. 20, 2007.
12—Home wins without a loss by the Detroit Red Wings since dropping a 4-1 decision to Calgary on Nov. 3, the longest home winning streak of the year.
170—Shutouts by goaltenders during 2011. No. 170 (including three games in which both goaltenders earned one) came Saturday night when the Detroit’s Jimmy Howard blanked St. Louis 1-0.
• We’re just not going to tell ESPN’s Page 2’s Jerry Greene (not to be confused with the Detroit News’s curmudgeon) that a certain organization which equates the interests of creatures with more than two legs with those of bipedal mammals of the homo sapiens sapiens variety already despises the practice of throwing octopi on ice, thus yielding no surprise that we’re going to hear a protest about that Anaheim Ducks fan who threw a really nice dead mallard on the ice recently (ducks weigh the same as witches);
• If you are a fan of a different kind of “throwing down,” via RedWingsFeed, Hockeyfights.com’s reaction to the fact that Todd Bertuzzi fought Dan Carcillo on Friday and that Mike Commodore followed that up with a bout against B.J. Crombeen on Saturday is more or less, “Holy sh*t, did hell freeze over? (and Hell is freezing over today…I should know, I live about 40 minutes east of Hell)
• And I’ll leave you for now by suggesting that following this link might make you smile, and that it is Red Wings-related.
As a note: I have a big appointment on Friday which will pretty much preclude me from doing my job for the vast majority of that day, so be prepared for a slight service interruption on the 6th. Sorry about that.
Update: ESPN’s Jesse Rogers is still reveling in the Hawks’ win on Friday.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.