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The Malik Report

Metro Detroit’s best-kept hockey secret, the Plymouth Whalers, battle the ‘Yankees of Junior Hockey’

Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager reports that Plymouth Whalers coach Mike Velucci played the underdog card in a big way ahead of Plymouth's OHL Western Conference Final match-up against the London Knights, but in doing so, Velucci did speak the truth regarding the fact that the Whalers are the best Detroit-area hockey team that you've probably rarely heard of:

"It's fun to play against [London]," Vellucci added. "They're the Yankees. They get 9,100 people. [London coach] Dale [Hunter] has coached in the NHL before [with the Washington Capitals]. They get more national TV, more media. It's great to be the spotlight. We're kind of always here in Plymouth off the radar. We have our one reporter who asks questions. For our kids it's cool to be in that atmosphere and be in that position."

It is easy to deduce from that Vellucci and the Whalers are leaning on the us-against-the-world motif, although one never claims to know where a group finds its motivation in the dressing room. Plymouth is a model franchise which has never missed the playoffs while producing a steady stream of pros. Getting the public's attention while playing in suburban Detroit in a market crowded by teams in all four major professional leagues and two huge NCAA brands in the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans is not easy.

Continued, and between the fact that the Whalers are nothing less than a hockey machine and the fact that very few people know that Ann Arbor's U.S. National Team Development Program squad produces oodles of high draft picks and NCAA athletes (including a certain Red Wings goalie who just signed a $32.8 million contract extension)...Sometimes we forget that Metro Detroit swims in elite hockey programs at every level of competition.

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Comments

Nathan's avatar

The arena is a stone’s throw away from me at this moment. I live a couple miles away in downtown Plymouth and work right around the corner from the arena. The high school I graduated from broadcast Whalers games on their radio station. We definitely know the Whalers in Plymouth. smile But it is true that folks from other cities in the area don’t seem to come out for the cheap tickets to some good hockey at a nice arena.

Honestly, given the quality of the arena, location, and affordability, going to a Whalers game is more fun than going to a Wings game. Sure, the talent obviously doesn’t stack up to even the two worst NHL teams playing, but this is more a point about how badly the Wings need a new arena in a better spot than what they have now.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/17/13 at 07:49 AM ET

d ca's avatar

I’ve been going to Whalers games as a kid since they played at the Joe and were the Jr Wings…

When I was in Mich I lived about 5 miles up Beck Rd from the arena and I would often go to the brewery to eat. I think they have really good food there. I would recommend going if you haven’t been. But the $5 tickets on Friday nights are an awesome value. I remember leaving the arena with 2 small boxes of Tim Hortons Timbits, 2 country music CD (I hate Country, but the date was more than happy), being in the same row as a guy that won tickets to the HHOF in Toronto, and being asked when the next time we were going was.

Even when Beck Rd is backed up (every day) during rush hour going north it still is a pretty accessible location because of M-14, 23, and 275.

The only issue I have with the place is the walkways behind the goals. If they could make them wider it would make for a better experience.

My high school’s home arena is Compuware now. And if they were playing Cranbrook-Kingswood, Trenton, or Culver Academy (IN) so it was always nice to be able to catch some of those game waiting for the Whalers game.

Posted by d ca on 04/17/13 at 08:46 PM ET

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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.