The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/25/13 at 05:42 AM ET
The Red Wings won't "take things outside" until New Year's Eve day, when they'll practice at Michigan Stadium (rather inconveniently, they're scheduled to practice at the same time that the Wings' pair of Alumni Showdown games with Toronto will take place in Detroit), but the Hockeytown Winter Festival unofficially kicks off tomorrow, when the four teams taking part in the Great Lakes Invitational (Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech) will practice at Comerica Park, and the GLI itself will take place on Friday and Saturday, with the "Coke Zero Fan Zone" outside of Comerica Park opening on Friday as well.
On Sunday, a pair of OHL games will take place (the Windsor Spitfires and Saginaw Spirit will tangle at 1 PM, and the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers will battle at 5), and on Monday, when the Red Wings are in Nashville, their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, will battle the Toronto Marlies (the Wings game starts at 8 and the Griffins game starts at 5).
By the time Tuesday's Alumni Showdown games (scheduled to take plac at 1 and 3:30 PM) take place, the Red Wings wil have played two post-Christmas games, and Comerica will have hosted over a week's worth of hockey games, but the Detroit News's Melody Baetens suggests that you might want to take in the "Fan Zone" even if you're not attending any of the events happening inside the ballpark:
“You’ll have a great time if you’re a hockey fan, and if you’re not a hockey fan, you’ll still enjoy it,” says Tom Wilson, president and CEO of Olympia Entertainment. “There’s so much to do. You’ll be bouncing from the games to the contests to listening to bands and in and out of the tents to keep warm.”
One of the major attractions of the Fan Zone is the appearances by former Red Wings, including Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman.
“That’s really the cherry on top” says Wilson of Yzerman’s participation. “We’re going to get him down for some question and answer sessions with the other alumni players. He represents Red Wing hockey to generations of fans.”
Wilson says most of the Red Wing alumni players will make an appearance on stage in the Fan Zone throughout the week.
“They may be there for 20 minutes or an hour. They may be signing autographs. If you’re in the Fan Zone, chances are you’re going to see somebody there during your stay.”
If you miss a chance for a photo with your favorite player, it’s likely there will be opportunity to snap one with the Stanley Cup. Check out other artifacts at the Hockey Hall of Fame, or play a game of pick-up hockey.
“It’s easy to spend several hours down here immersed in hockey,” adds Wilson.
Ideally, as the Detroit News's Michael Martinez suggests, the events should bring many fans downtown, wallets in tow, to enjoy the hockey, the food, the shopping, shows and casinos:
The Winter Festival — a five-day event in downtown Detroit that begins Friday and includes music, hockey games at Joe Louis Arena and two Red Wings alumni games at Comerica Park — will serve as the prelude to the Winter Classic outdoor game between the Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day.
National Hockey League officials have said the events could draw about 400,000 to 500,000 people and will have a $30 million economic impact on southeast Michigan. Local officials think the number could be higher.
“It’s tremendous,” said Marty Dobek, marketing and communications specialist for the Detroit Sports Commission, a subsidiary of the Metro Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Normally this time of year it’s kind of slow. It’s definitely a good shot in the arm for the region. There’s going to be a whole lot of people staying downtown, going to bars and restaurants.”
The bureau estimates that the Hockeytown Winter Festival in downtown Detroit will bring $50 million to $60 million to the Metro region in hotel, restaurant and other spending.
The Ann Arbor Convention and Visitors Bureau has estimated a $15 million economic impact from hosting the outdoor game, Dobek said. Many fans are taking shuttles from downtown Detroit, and hotels in the college town are filling up fast.
The 160-room Weber’s Restaurant and Hotel, on Jackson Road off Interstate 94, was half-booked earlier this week but is expected to be have rooms filled by Jan. 1, said Ken Weber, president. “It’s a big game,” he said. “We’re usually full on New Year’s Eve, but the difference this year is that the price of the room is going up.”
Weber said the hotel is offering special New Year’s Eve and Winter Classic packages and will have shuttle service to and from the game.
Martinez continues, too, and offers some details regarding still-available hotel rooms.
As the Port Huron Times-Herald's Joseph Hayes notes, the Wings have already been using Comerica Park's ice surface to host high school hockey games and charitable events that aren't getting "press" but are still ensuring that every moment of available ice time is used:
Christmas came early for Lou Feher. The 44-year-old Port Huron resident spent Saturday down in Detroit playing hockey at Comerica Park as part of a Chrysler fundraiser for the United Way.
Feher, who is a millwright for Chrysler played on one of six teams formed by the company. Each team wore original six jerseys and were joined by Detroit Red Wings alumni during the games, including Joe Kocur and Mickey Redmond.
“It was pretty cool seeing an ice rink on the baseball field,” Feher said. “We dressed in the visitors locker room, which was pretty unique. We went through the dugout to get on the ice. It was real neat. There was actually a lottery where 350 people signed up, and 102 guys were chosen. It was our goal at Chrysler to raise $40,000. I haven’t heard a total yet, but I know we were really close.”
It's still hard to figure out whether Sergei Fedorov will arrive in town as an alumnus or an active player for the KHL team he runs, CSKA Moscow. On Tuesday, Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chensokov reported that Fedorov may play for CSKA Moscow at the Spengler Cup, and the Russian press reported that Fedorov may play for CSKA as soon as today.
Fedorov engaged in an interview with Sport-Express's Marya Mikhalenkov on "Western Christmas Eve" (Orthodox Christmas takes place on January 7th, and New Year's Day is the biggest Russian winter holiday), and boy howdy, does Fedorov ever engage in some managerial wordplay with Mikhalenkov.
Fedorov states that he may play in the Spengler Cup, and he states that he's been skating with CSKA's players--and that he wants to show that he's a better player than the one who struggled during his final KHL campaign for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in 2011-2012--but that's as far as he goes, and the rest of his conversation involves matters related to having played in an exhibition game with the team a couple of months ago, his day job and the Russian National Team's fortunes ahead of the Olympics.
He does say that he'll be spending New Year's Day with his parents, and that they still live in Metro Detroit, for what that's worth.
When the Red Wings get back to practice on Thursday (with Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard possibly breaking in Winter Classic gear, as MLive's Ansar Khan noted), we know that they won't have Jonathan Ericsson's services for 3-5 weeks as he broke two ribs in the Wings' 3-0 loss to the Islanders on Monday, and while the Red Wings won't play another game at Joe Louis Arena until January 18th, the Wings readily admitted that their home record is embarrassing, as the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan noted:
The boos were loud and they came cascading down Joe Louis Arena Monday as if it were a Lions game at Ford Field.
The booing has been more frequent at Joe Louis Arena this season. But that’s what a 6-10-6 record at home can bring about -- more than a few displeased fans. There were certainly more than a few unhappy patrons Monday as the Islanders skated to an easy 3-0 victory -- particularly after scoring three goals in a lousy Red Wings first period.
“Getting booed off the ice after the first period, the last game before Christmas, to me that’s a sad state of affairs,” coach Mike Babcock said. “We’ll have three days to think about it (a league-mandated three-day break). We’re going to get better than that because this wasn’t good enough.”
The lack of success at Joe Louis Arena has been puzzling for a team that’s prided itself on being dominant on home ice. The Red Wings have had several poor losses at home (6-1 to Ottawa, 6-3 to Philadephia, 5-2 to Anaheim) that have especially brought out the boo-birds.
“I wish I had the answer,” said Kronwall of the home misery. “Then it would be easier to fix. But it’s just not good enough. Playing like that at home, especially that first period, it was unacceptable.”
What has saved the Red Wings this season is their sparking 11-3-3 road record. But they know they must play better at home.
“It’s weird, for sure,” said defenseman Brendan Smith of the home difficulties. “Normally this is a tough building for teams to steal points. But it’s kind of been the opposite.”
You'll find more injury news and/or updates in Tuesday's "mid-day" post.
For the present moment, however, most of the Red Wings will focus on spending the next day or two their families, and DetroitRedWings.com's Andrea Nelson revealed that one of the Wings' home-grown players will be spending today and tomorrow at very crowded houses:
The youngest of seven children, [Danny] DeKeyser will celebrate Christmas this year at his aunt and uncle’s house, spending time and reminiscing with an abundance of siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s a ton of people,” DeKeyser said. “My dad has a big family and so does my mom, they both had a lot of kids in their families too so lot of aunts and uncles, a lot of cousins, it’s crazy. They (siblings) live around here so they’re here all the time, they come to games and that kind of thing and they’ll be at Christmas with the rest of the family and it’ll be good to see them.”
With three older brothers and three older sisters, the defenseman admits he was slightly doted on growing up, but there was one gift he always looked forward to finding under the Christmas tree.
“I always used to ask for sports video games so when I was younger I used to always get that, the newest NHL game or the newest NFL or NBA game,” he said. “I asked for those every year.”
This year, DeKeyser only asked for one thing: to spend the holiday with his family, the most important people in his life.
“I actually didn’t ask for anything just that I could see the family this year and that everybody would be around,” DeKeyser said. “We’re all older now and you know how that goes, everybody has jobs and that kind of thing where you’re working right up to the holidays a lot of times so hopefully I’ll just be able to see everybody.”
Otherwise, the Free Press is doing end-of-the-year stuff, and they've nominated Henrik Zetterberg as a possible "Player of the Year" and they've listed two Wings plays (Datsyuk's goal through all of the Nashville Predators and Zetterberg's game 6 winner against Anaheim) as potential "Plays of the Year"...
But I plan on taking today and tomorrow as slowly and quietly as possible. I have no idea whether I'll be attending the Griffins game or the Alumni Showdown in person or whether I'll be watching them on TV like you as a certain team has yet to inform a certain blogger as to whether he's been credentialed or denied entry, but either way, the "season" started with the prospect tournament in early September, and it's been a long haul already.
I don't try to write to chase a "story" or to be "right." I try to offer thoughtful and hopefuly thought-provoking observations, but in the end, I'm not writing to read myself speaking or to attempt to be "more right" than anyone else--I'm following a team that I cheer for and care about because I'm genuinely interested in its players, coaches, management, ownership and prospects as people as well as hockey players, and I really do wish them all well, even Mikael Samuelsson and Kyle Quincey.
In the end, I'm a Red Wings fan, and as the comments section's gotten particularly testosterone-y of late, I think I need to state very publicly that the reason I put in the hours I do and the reason I write what I write doesn't have much of anything to do with trying to win rhetorical battles. It's about hoping that the Wings win and trying to balance fandom and professionalism in observations mixed in with content that I hope makes it a little easier for you to follow the team, enjoy its ups and endure its downs. Red Wings fans are a community of people who feel like we're part of something bigger than ourselves, and even though we're following disproportionately-paid athletes to play a kid's game, that's okay, because what we spend our time, energy, effort and money doing makes us happy a little more regularly than it drives us absolutely nuts, which is the basis for any good long-term relationship with anything.
I hope that you have a safe and at least tolerable holiday--I happen to like Christmas, but I also get to spend it in my pajamas at home with the two little old ladies whose condo I share here in South Lyon, so I completely understand if the travel, expense and proximity to family members and "friends" you'd rather not hang around, doing things you'd rather not do makes this a crappy and stressful time of year for you.
It will end and we will have hockey to make us cheer and make us cry in short order, and oodles of outdoor activity here in Metro Detroit, and I hope you all enjoy it, and more than anything I hope you all stay safe and sound while enjoying and/or enduring the holiday and taking in the hockey we're about to witness together.
Merry Christmas and all of that.
I've always loved this scene from a Christmas Story not because it's culturally insensitive, but because it's sincere. I grew up between Polish immigrants, and the parents of my Korean-American middle school friend who introduced me to the Red Wings and hockey spoke no English, so you're gonna have to trust me when I say it's not what you say but how you say it:
I wish you a safe and tolerable holiday and smiling ducks.
Quickie update: TSN's Mark Masters reports that Wings prospect Jake Paterson received an early Christmas present ahead of the opening of the World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden on Thursday:
"Paterson will start Game 1 and we'll make a determination after that game's over who will start in Game 2," coach Brent Sutter said after a one-hour practice Wednesday morning.
Canada opens the 10-country tournament against the Germans on Thursday.
Zach Fucale of the Halifax Mooseheads will serve as back-up, but may get to play later in the tournament.
"Let's see how Game 1 goes," said Sutter. "You've got to assume when you're playing a lot of games in a short period of time that you'll need both goalies, but we'll start with Patty and make a determination after that who will play in Game 2."
The 19-year-old Paterson was thrilled.
He was at last year's world juniors in Ufa, Russia as the third goalie, but never got to dress for a game. Now he will finally wear a Team Canada jersey on the ice.
"It's really exciting," the Mississauga, Ont. native said. "(Goalie coach) Fred Braithwaite came up and told me I was going in and then Brent came up after practice and said I was playing. It was really exciting to hear the news."
And MLive's Brendan Savage is asking fans to weigh in as to what the "Top Red Wings Story of 2013" was.
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About The Malik Report
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.