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The Malik Report

Red Wings afternoon news: Homer and TC volunteers on parade, Delvecchio’s short skate and Pulkkatalk

Updated at 9:35 PM: The Red Wings’ website has posted a clip of Tomas Holmstrom taking part in the “Cherry Royale Parade” commemorating the conclusion of Traverse City’s Cherry Festival, and I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Ann Reeves, Pete Correia and all the fantastic volunteers from Centre Ice Arena walked in the parade behind the Holmstrom family.

Holmstrom earned his feting, and I hope it’s not the only time we see Holmstrom being treated like royalty over the next six months…

But when I got to the rink at 7 in the morning, the volunteers were already at the rink; when I left at 5 PM, the volunteers were still working, and working very hard, to ensure that each and every one of the prospects were treated like VIP’s, regardless of whether they were Teemu Pulkkinen or Travis Novak.

They will be working even harder to host eight teams (with an average of 25 prospects per team) and their respective front offices, coaching and support staffs, and will follow that week up by catering to literally every need of the Detroit Red Wings and their 60-some main camp participants.

All I could do to give the volunteers at Centre Ice my thanks was to do little things, to always be polite, to hold open doors, say “thank you” as often as humanly possible, and when I could get the time to do so, I let them know I was grateful for their hard work, but there is nothing that can sufficiently offer enough praise for or respect due to the people who make the summer development camp, prospect tournament and main camp work. Average people like you and me spend their vacation time getting up at 5 AM, getting home from the rink at 9 or 10 and spending their entire days working their tails off.

I can’t thank them enough.

That, and when Homer does retire, i still want to give the man a hug and beg that he demand the Wings to raise his hockey pants to the rafters above both goals, placing them in two inches in front of “shooter tutor” cutouts.

Also in the alumni department? The South Oakland (County) Observer’s Marty Bunder spoke to Wings legend Alex Delvecchio about taking part in the Winter Classic Alumni Games, and while the Chris Chelios-like Ted Lindsay will probably be able to put his genes to good use in taking a regular shift (the 86-year-old still works out in the Wings’ gym several times a week during hockey season), the vast majority of the Wings’ greatest legends will probably do what Delvecchio plans on doing in playing a shift or two:

Alex Delvecchio’s first chore will be locating his skates. The next will be to get his legs back in shape since he hasn’t played hockey in some seven years.

But, the former Detroit Red Wings captain says it’s all good when it comes to the Hockeytown Winter Festival Alumni Showdown. Delvecchio hopes to play at least a shift when the Red Wings alumni faces off against the Toronto Maple Leafs alumni Dec. 31 at Comerica Park.

“It’s been seven or eight years now since I’ve played, and I don’t even know where the skates are,” says the longtime Red Wing, whose number 10 is one of six retired jerseys hanging in the rafters at Joe Louis Arena. “I have to dig them out. I haven’t put skates on a for a few years, but I’m going to put them on when the alumni starts practicing in the latter part of September or October,” Delvecchio says. “I’ll just wait to see how a feel. I’ll play it by ear. I’d just like to make even one shift, that would be fine.”

Officials from both the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, along with representatives from American Hockey and Ontario Hockey leagues, were in town Wednesday officially announcing the lineup for the upcoming Winter Festival. The two-week long Winter Festival downtown will climax with the alumni playing on the outdoor rink inside Comerica Park. Because of the inordinate amount of alumni on each of the Original Six squads who have expressed an interest in playing, officials announced there will be a pair of games.

“I think it’s going to be beautiful for downtown Detroit,” says Delvecchio, a Rochester Hills resident whose grandchildren were student-athletes at Birmingham Seaholm High School. “The Winter Classic will bring back memories. Hopefully there will be a little snow and cold weather which will make the atmosphere a lot better. I’m sure the fans will enjoy it. It’s just great for the city,” he says. “Now it ends up with two games so there are going to be a lot of alumni guys who we haven’t seen for a while showing up. I think it will make for a good game, especially against Toronto, our arch-rival, really.”

As Joey Kocur wisely pointed out, I don’t know whether we’re going to see Steve Yzerman as he hasn’t skated since the Wings were ousted by the Oilers in 2006, and even taking one shift would involve revisiting bone-on-bone scraping in his right knee, and I don’t know if Gordie Howe can play given that he’s had a double knee replacement and that his left wrist bones are more or less fused together, but we can hope.

That, and I can’t imagine that a Red Wings defensive corps whose ranks will include Nicklas Lidstrom, a player who could still play and contribute in a big way in Jiri Fischer and a player who might not be able to play at the NHL level but could at least still be playing ECHL hockey if he wanted to do so in Chris Chelios won’t emerge victorious.

I have no clue whether Dominik Hasek will still be playing professionally, though I doubt it, and while Sergei Fedorov hasn’t officially retired yet, he’s expected to do so after a swan song with the team he manages now, CSKA Moscow. Whether the Wings’ management will welcome Fedorov back into the fold is another story entirely, and that’s the most intriguing one in terms of the alumni games to me—Bob Probert and the Wings didn’t truly mend fences until the Yzerman jersey retirement ceremony, and the Wings could do the same with Fedorov, but he still accuses Mike Ilitch and Jimmy Devellano of taking a contract offer off the table before he left for Anaheim, and I know the Wings still believe that it was Fedorov and his agent at the time, Pat (“I’ve mad a mint from Crosby”) Brisson who broke their word.

If you thought Holland and the Wings’ brass had an uphill battle on their hands in attempting to recruit Zach Parise and Ryan Suter earlier this month, or that Ken Holland’s ability to convince the team to mend fences with Dominik Hasek prior to the 2006-2007 season was a surgically delicate process, it’s got nothing on Holland’s need to broker a peace deal between Jimmy D, Mr. Ilitch himself and Fedorov.

 

And in other alumni games news, I can’t tell you that I’m surprised that the Plymouth Observer’s Tim Smith reports that tickets to each and every one of the Hockeytown Winter Festival’s games will be so hard to come by that the Plymouth Whalers aren’t guaranteeing an opportunity to watch Plymouth tangle with the Saginaw Spirit and Wings prospect Jake Paterson unless you’ve got a season ticket package for the Whalers—and I’m sure the same is true for Spirit fans, those of the other outdoor OHL game’s participants in the Windsor Spitfires and Andreas Athanasiou’s London Knights, and tickets for the Grand Rapids Griffins-Toronto Marlies game and the GLI (a total of four games between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University) will probably be available on similar bases…

So while we’re talking about a 40,000-seat facility hosting a total of 8 NHL Alumni, OHL, AHL and NCAA games, I would regrettably imagine that 85-90% of the 320,000 butts in seats will be season ticket-holders and their friends and families, unless you can snag a ticket on the “secondary market,” of course.

That’s the one thing that really pisses me off about all of these events—if you are an average fan who can’t quite afford a partial or full season ticket package, your best bet to take in a game at Comerica Park involves taking in the ten high school games to be held on December 18th and 19th.

Getting into the alumni games, OHL, AHL and NCAA games will be much harder, and the Winter Classic itself may as well be one gigantic VIP event, save those who can find tickets at significant mark-ups on eBay, Stubhub, etc.

With all of that being said, per Smith:

Among ex-players on hand at Wednesday’s press conference was Red Wings Alumni Association president Joe Kocur, who also lives in metro Detroit. Kocur said having the chance to host two alumni games instead of one speaks to the unbelievable tradition that the Wings and Leafs enjoy as Original Six teams in the NHL.

“It’s all about the alumni players and to get together, to experience coming out here,” Kocur said. “One hundred alumni skating at Comerica Park, getting together, seeing old friends, meeting players that you got to play against or even never got to play with. I’m so excited I can’t wait for the day to drop the puck.”

Kocur added that Detroit will get a unique opportunity to show the world how much hockey means to the region.

“It’s one of the greatest hockey cities in the world,” he said. “We claim it’s the best. There’s a lot of good ones. But Hockeytown’s just going to be rocking all month.”

 

 


Also of Red Wings-related note: Via RedWingsFeed, the Wings have finally posted a photo gallery from the summer development camp on their website. This serves as a companion to their Facebook photo gallery, but for my money, as one might say, the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau’s slate of photos over the past week were the best by far (we’ll have to see whether Nick Barnowski’s willing to share his equally overpowered camera’s photos over the next couple of weeks, because he also came to camp with a professional level camera);

• Also in the multimedia department, if you’re into swiping the Wings’ wallpapers and using them for your desktop, the Wings posted a new wallpaper featuring Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall on their website this morning;

• And finally, for the minute, anyway, the answer is no: MLive’s Brendan Savage asked fans to weigh in as to whether Teemu Pulkkinen is NHL-ready, and as much as I think that it’s an absolute crime that IIHF transfer agreement rules require Pulkkinen and Calle Jarnkrok to go back to their European teams unless they’re playing NHL games until 2013-2014…

Pulkkinen’s NHL-level hands, slap shot, wrist shot, snap shot, one-timer, passing, poke-checking, playmaking instincts, attention to detail, ability to battle with and through bigger and stronger players and yes, even his defensive aplomb are all ready for prime time, his body isn’t.

Pulkkinen’s still a relatively skinny 5’10” or 5’11” with a classically European-trained body, all bulked up in the shoulders and calves, but thin and almost brittle in terms of his thighs, butt and abdomen. As such, he’d play a partial role with the Wings, getting in a game here or there and mostly find himself sitting in the press box, and the Wings don’t believe that kind of situation serves Pulkkinen’s interests best.

As such, Pulkkinen will go back to Jokerit Helsinki and hopefully display dominant and consistent form before competing for a full-time NHL spot a year from now.

I won’t deny that, as Savage suggests, some time in Grand Rapids wouldn’t hurt Pulkkinen or Jarnkrok, but they’ve been playing against men in two of Europe’s best leagues in the Finnish SM-Liiga and Swedish Eliteserien since their draft years, and while the Wings had the opportunity of giving Gustav Nyquist a chunk of time to adjust to pro play in Grand Rapids as his body slowly but surely developed over the past season, I get the sense that the Wings’ management believes that geometry and pace of play will be the two issues for Pulkkinen and Jarnkrok by September of 2013, and as such, they’re probably going to make the big club on a full-time basis.

 

Update: Via Eliteprospects.com, Grand Rapids Griffins forward Chris Minard may end up playing in Germany. Eishockeynews.de reports that The Kolner Haie (Cologne Sharks) hope to sign him. They apparently lost out to Adler Mannheim in the sweepstakes for Doug Janik’s services;

• And the Left Wing Lock’s Sarah Lindenau penned an article about Xavier Ouellet:

Xavier Ouellet has set the bar high for himself after an outstanding 2011-2012 season. The two-way defenseman scored 21 goals and 60 points in 63 games with Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL. Ouellet accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider he was also serving as the team captain for the first time.

“I was a you
The Red Wings, who had another year to decide on Ouellet’s future, wasted no time and signed him to a three-year entry-level contract in March. The 48th overall selection in the 2011 NHL entry draft wasn’t expecting a contract so soon and will likely return to the QMJHL for his final season this fall.

“I was surprised and really proud to sign a contract early,” he said. “I have been working hard the last two years. It’s exciting and I think I deserved it.
...
It will be tough to top the season he had last year that had some scouts calling him the most complete blueliner in the QMJHL. The Bayonne, France native was even nominated for the Emile Bouchard trophy awarded to the top defenseman in the QMJHL but lost out to Rimouski’s Jerome Gauthier-Leduc.

“I was proud of my season so to be nominated was nice,” he said. “We had a good team last year and I am hoping we can have a longer playoff run this year. My goal is to play in the NHL one day so these experiences will help me push for a job with Detroit one day. It is a long process so I want to be ready.”

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Comments

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I’ve been looking everywhere for a detailed description of Pulkkinen’s body parts… This is the best blog ever!

Posted by Rsambo00 on 07/15/12 at 09:01 PM ET

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Anyone hoping for Shane Doan is going to be disappointed…Phoenix is going to be sold to Greg Jamison and stay in Glendale. Doan is believed to want to stay and would only leave if uncertainty prevented the team from staying in Phoenix.

The referendum signature drive failed…it was 300 signatures short (besides being turned in 3 days late). The commentary I read is that there is almost no chance of winning in court to put this on the ballot in Nov. So unless the Goldwater Institute steps in again to delay the sale in court…Doan’s staying with Phoenix.

Posted by dca from in Mich on 07/15/12 at 10:14 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I know that nobody wants to hear that kind of description, but the honest to Gord truth, C.R., (seems to be what your email address suggests you go by), is that the theory about “core strength” means that players who skate for a living need to have lots of bulk in their “core”—which consists of your thighs, rear end, lower back, abdomen and basically the muscles between what’s just above your knees and what’s between your shoulder blades.

That is where the work gets done for hockey players when they battle through opposing players and when the tangle in one-on-one battles for the puck along the boards. Too man of the European players are all shaped like two V’s atop each other, a sort of vertical ><, and a He-Man physique isn’t what you’re looking for if you want to be a professional hockey player. You want to be strong all the way up and down, to be built like a tree trunk, and the Europeans tend to have very little trunk strength, if you prefer that more delicate term.

Trust me, I wasn’t taking notes on the body parts of the players in their “trunk,” but their build is easy to see in general terms and trunk strength is perhaps the hardest physical skill prospects have to hone.

Uncomfortable to talk about? Yes. Accurate? Yes.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/12 at 10:55 PM ET

Keyser S.'s avatar

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 07/15/12 at 08:55 PM ET

LMAO! Just found some time to read your article and the comments. So true, hockey players need to be built like running backs these days. Low center of gravity, that’s why datsyuk and company are so awesome. When gretzky retired, I believe he said as much (not aboot datsyuk, but about the strength of young hockey players).

Posted by Keyser S. on 07/16/12 at 01:03 AM 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.