The Malik Report
Red Wings Christmas morning report: A wonderful fundraiser and hoping for a Lidstrom year to grow on
by George Malik on 12/25/11 at 07:02 AM ET
Updated 2x with ugly road records and Zetterberg creativity at 4:03 PM: On Christmas morning, or what is more like when kids tend to wake mom and dad up and ask, “Can we open our presents yet?” and mom and dad say, “It’s 5 AM!” one might become a little philosophical, and the stories I’m about to present you could have been tossed off with a particularly moralistic bent, especially as a certain former teammate of this morning’s protagonist continues to spout off to the media ahead of what is essentially “Foppa: 24/7”—and the IIHF just cleared the 2006 Swedish Olympic team from any potential game-throwing wrongdoing as a Christmas present.
As I’m imagining that you might have to spend the day with relatives who want to tell you other things than how the masons and “grays” are ruling the world (my slightly schizophrenic uncle brightened up many a Christmas party), however, let’s just go with, “Sometimes this holiday is about how well you take care of others, and sometimes it’s how well you take care of others by just being the best person you can be, especially when you don’t have to.”
Let’s start with the taking care of others part, even though it’s not necessarily Red Wings-related. The Toledo Blade’s Mark Monroe offers just about the perfect Monday activity for anyone who’s looking for something to do in Northwest Ohio, and it’s all about taking care of others just because it’s the right thing to do. On Monday, the Toledo Walleye will be hosting something called “Hockeyfest,” a day-long slate of six games between youth and then high school teams from the Toledo area to benefit Kyle Cannon, a young man who nearly lost his life while playing for one of the schools which will take part in Monday’s fundraiser:
A day-long hockey event on Monday at the Huntington Center will raise money support a former hockey player at Clay High School who was paralyzed during a hockey game in 2008. The Toledo Walleye organization will host the Holiday HockeyFest to support senior Kyle Cannon, who suffered the devastating injury as a 14-year-old freshman and remains confined to a wheelchair.
The event consists of six hockey games, including contests between eight high school teams and four youth teams to raise money for Cannon. This is the third season the Walleye have helped organize the event.
“The hockey world is a very small one,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “If we have someone who is in trouble or in need, the hockey world takes care of their own. Whatever we can do to make it a little better for him, we’re more than willing to do it.”
The HockeyFest starts at 10 a.m. and will feature the following high school games: Ottawa Hills versus Lake, Springfield against Eastwood, Anthony Wayne versus Maumee, and Clay against Perrysburg. The cost is $15 per ticket and is good for all four games.
Michael Keedy, the Walleye’s manager of special events, said fans that purchase a ticket to the event will also receive a voucher that can be redeemed for a ticket to any 2011-12 Walleye game.
“It’s really nice that they keep having this even though it happened three years ago,” Cannon said. “It still doesn’t seem like it has been that long for me. It’s nice that everyone supports it. It’s like they’ll never forgot it.”
The event has grown from two teams in 2009 to six teams last year and eight this year. In 2009, nearly $25,000 was raised and drew a record crowd of 4,020 tickets sold for a game between Clay and Anthony Wayne. Last year nearly $10,000 was raised.
According to the Walleye’s Hockeyfest page, their goal involves raising another $10,000 to continue aiding Cannon for another year, and I think that’s a pretty darn noteworthy cause.
Serving as a bridge between topics, Wings fans receive a bit of a Christmas present every time they watch one of the best defensemen ever to play the game lace up skates in Nicklas Lidstrom. The Portland (Maine) Press-Herald’s reports that the Junior Maine Mariners, a team of 12-year-olds hand-picked from teams across the state of Maine, will head to Nicklas Lidstrom’s hometown of Avesta to play in a hockey tournament which is about more than the game itself:
The 10-team tournament, renamed in honor of the seven-time Norris Trophy winner for the Detroit Red Wings, includes squads from Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland and Latvia team from Maine won the tournament in 1998, but the trip is not just about competition.
“The value of the trip is really for the kids to understand a different country and a different culture and learn about the people of Sweden,” said head coach Scott Smith, who played at the University of Maine. “It’s not about hockey. It’s about the trip and getting exposed to all kinds of culture and new ways of life.”
At the same time, the Maine team knows it will be representing the entire country.
“Even though we’re going as a Maine team, over there we’re viewed as USA,” said Gordon Wakelin, the trip director. “Everything we do reflects upon the USA.”
The organizer of eight such trips to Sweden during the past 30 years, Wakelin said the players who were invited this year were not selected solely on the basis of their talent.
“We wanted to have a group of kids who are not necessarily the best players in Maine—and we do have some of those—but we wanted to have the best kids in Maine, the great character kids,” he said. “We’re not going there to win it. We’re going there for the experience.”
The kids and their parents stay with Swedish families over the course of the Nicklas Lidstrom Cup, so the goal obviously involves some world view-broadening and making new friendships.
As for the genuine article, the Red Wings’ captain was once believed to be too bland and too polite to serve as the successor to Steve Yzerman, but as Wings fans have come to know their no longer “quiet” captain, it’s become pretty apparent that Lidstrom does just fine leading by example, and while Lidstrom will admit that he’s human enough to have an ego, it’s always a bit surprising to read about his teammates’ parallel reactions as to how excellent Lidstrom is as a player and how he excels at being a good person, perhaps to the point that people start worrying that he’s “too perfect” because Lidstrom isn’t trying to be the hockey version of Mr. Perfect; he’s just working hard to continue to play the game he loves at the elite level which he expects from himself and his teammates.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James believes that Lidstrom’s superb performance this season suggests that we should ask Santa to give us at least one more full season of watching #5 play for the Wings, and his teammates and agree with that sentiment:
“Nick is outstanding,” Pavel Datsyuk said. “We really lucky we have him. I see him every year; he just same level. You know what you get from him—he never up and down, just same.”
The number Lidstrom likes is his plus-minus rating. He finished on the minus side last year for the first time in his 19 seasons, so to see it back where it should be is satisfying even for a guy with nothing to prove.
“That’s something I wasn’t happy with last year, so it’s something I wanted to improve on and I’ve been able to do that so far,” Lidstrom said. “I’m happy with that.”
Last season’s minus-2 didn’t deter voters from picking him in the 2011 Norris race, and Lidstrom walked away from the awards show last June cradling his seventh trophy, one shy of Bobby Orr’s record. It was recognition of Lidstrom’s genius: of how he uses his stick to make opposing superstars run out of room; of how he reads plays three moves in advance.
“You’re sort of in awe watching him every night,” Jimmy Howard said. “I think he’s the best defenseman ever to play the game. He’s always up there in points among defensemen, and he’s playing against the other team’s top line. He’s just so cerebral out there. It’s very humbling for me to be able to call him a teammate.”
“He does the right thing all the time,” [Wings coach Mike] Babcock said. “That makes it way easier to be a good coach, because there is communication and support there, that he knows what it takes to win and then he helps you with that process. He’s playing as good as I’ve ever seen him. He’s been great because he embraces doing the simple thing over and over again, and obviously he’s been touched by a wand by God—I mean, he’s incredible.”
I’ll suggest that you read St. James’ article in its entirety for the Christmas wish at the end from Mr. Datsyuk, but in the interim, here’s hoping that Lidstrom gives the Wings “one to grow on.”
We’re going to have an article to come from MLive’s Ansar Khan later this morning about another sort of Christmas bottom line, but in the interim, instead of letting a little CBA talk get the better of me—sometimes one might think too much about making writing matter after receiving an early Christmas present via an unexpected plug—so I’ll note that the Wings have a very busy week ahead—they play in Nashville on Monday (the 26th, a.k.a. Boxing Day, 8 PM EST, FSD), they host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday (the 27th, 7:30 PM EST, FSD), and after a two-day break, they head to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on the 30th (8 PM EST, FSD) before ending the year on a note that the Wings hope will yield four straight wins against Central Division teams, as noted by the Free Press’s sports staff:
Toast in the new year:
SATURDAY: The Red Wings have a little tradition this week, among all the bowl games and the Winter Classic: The New Year’s Eve game they play most years, and this time it’s against Ken Hitchcock’s pesky Blues, who won the previous meeting. The Wings actually host St. Louis twice this week, on Tuesday, too. 7 p.m., FSD.
The Wings’ 44 points place them one point behind the Blues, three points ahead of the Predators and five behind the Blackhawks, so it’s obviously essential that the Wings gobble up as many of their “four-point games” as possible.
Things don’t get any easier in January as the Wings will play 12 games (7 on the road) over the course of 23 days(!) prior to the All-Star break, including two more tilts against Chicago and one against St. Louis—and the whole thing kicks off with a 4-game road trip, includes a mid-month trip to Dallas and Phoenix and wraps up with a game in Montreal prior to a week-long post-ASG road trip, so the Wings really face a long and winding road until home-friendly February arrives…But that’s a ways off.
In the interim, I hope that you’ve had and are having a wonderful Christmas holiday if you celebrate it, that your Hanukkah is happy, that your Kwanzaa is joyous, that the Solstice has been swell and that your Festivus was decent. Please remember to celebrate safely, and try not to kill your relatives (which is a pretty good rule to go by all year long).
Paul might go with the old standards for YouTube Christmas, but for me, this is the go-to holiday tune…
And I don’t believe that you need to adhere to any conventional celebrations of the various holidays which dot the calendar at this time of year to enjoy and be thankful for who you’re spending your time with, because that’s really what this season is all about, occasional homicidal tendencies included:
Quickie update: I’ll second the picture posted in the Free Press’s “Fandemonium” section, via RedWingsFeed on Twitter as usual, to say that I also hope that the Chief and everybody who’s celebrating the holiday away from home, or is standing on guard today so that the rest of us can eat, drink and be merry, please stay safe and know that we’re grateful for your service.
Update #1.5: Okey dokey, Neat fact of the day, from the Bloomfield Hills Observer’s Mike Rosenbaum: Doug Brown’s son will join Dean and Jake Chelios as the third player with Wings ties playing in the Great Lakes Invitational on the 28th and 29th at Joe Louis Arena:
MSU and Michigan Tech open GLI play this year, Thursday afternoon. Michigan then meets the tournament’s invitee, Boston College, which is ranked third and fourth in the two major college hockey polls. The Eagles also feature a local skater, sophomore forward Patrick Brown, who was a two-time All-State selection at Cranbrook-Kingswood. Brown, the son of former Red Wings forward Doug Brown, played sparingly for BC as a freshman, tallying one assist in 29 games. He scored his lone collegiate goal in this season’s opener, against Michigan State.
• Also in the, “If you want something to do this week if you’re in Western Michigan” department, from the Grand Rapids Press’s John Gonzalez:
2. Grand Rapids Griffins. If you’re going to be downtown, the Griffins always put on a fun New Year’s Eve party, featuring hockey and fireworks. They take on the Milwaukee Admirals at 6 p.m. Saturday in Van Andel Arena, 130 W. Fulton St. Info: 774-4585, griffinshockey.com.
I’ve I’d actually worked in September, October and November, I would have honestly splurged on some Wings-Blues tickets and maybe spent the extra hundred bucks to attend the Wings’ New Year’s Eve part…Erm, nah, not either now that I think about it. New Year’s Eve crowds in downtown Detroit are kind of nuts—braving New Year’s Eve parties can be an adventure that I’m not necessarily up to—and I do terrible at parties because of my anxiety disorder (just being honest). If I can find a way to get together with some friends and watch the game while having some pizza, that’ll be my kind of celebration.
• Speaking of “the crazy,” I’ve got to laugh about this tidbit in the alumni department from NHL.com’s Kevin Baker, who point out that some goalies have made Ilya Bryzgalov seem downright normal:
And Dominik Hasek, right up there with Patrick Roy as among the greatest modern-era goalies, required a set of nail clippers be stuck on his locker stall (home and away) with a Velcro strip so that – get ready for it – he could clip his nails in between periods. That’s right. A winner of six Vezinas and a Stanley Cup, Hasek, when not shutting himself off from his teammates for hours on end playing an old-school hand-held electronic chess game, had convinced himself that he needed to give himself a manicure twice a night. You know, just for good luck.
Dominik Hasek’s Red Wings teammates didn’t dislike the man, there was a consensus among anyone who dealt with the man with a history degree and teacher’s certification would simply state that the very absent-minded professor was a great guy, absolutely fricking insane, but a nice guy. Hasek,
Roy, Ed Belfour and Martin Brodeur were perhaps the most dominant goaltenders over the past 20-some years,but only Brodeur has any semblance of sanity. Hasek’s nail clippers are the tip of an “eccentric” iceberg a mile wide and two miles deep.
• Jimmy Howard is a pretty darn regular person and goalie, however, and MLive’s Ansar Khan spoke to Howard about something that’s calmed him right down as he’s evolved into an elite netminder—fatherhood, courtesy of two-month-old James Howard IV (I wonder if they call him Jamie or something?):
“I remember sitting in the hospital and everything just came naturally, from changing the diapers,” Howard said. “And now I have it down pat.”
Ever since then, he has been eagerly anticipating his first Christmas as a dad.
“Very excited. It’s going to be different,” Howard said during last week’s trip to Western Canada. “I’m sure he still has no idea what is going on; he’ll be happy when you change his diaper and give him a bottle. But for Mom and Dad it’s going to be a totally new experience, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with Rachel.”
He said his wife has been “a rock” at home. “She’s allowed me to sleep on game nights and she’s been carrying the heavy load,” Howard said. “So with these three days (off) coming up, I’m looking forward to relieving some of that from her.”
One year ago this month, Howard, after a strong start, began to slump. He later admitted ongoing contract talks (he signed a two-year deal on Feb. 28) were weighing on his mind. Fatherhood has resulted in no such distraction. He said it has had a calming effect and has taught him to be more patient.
“I used to be one of those guys who would get down on themselves,” Howard said. “There was always a carryover into my personal life. It just wasn’t helping anything. I figured it wasn’t the way to live your life, and the sun still comes up in the morning no matter what happens out there. You can be upset, but I try to drop it as quickly as possible, and just take the good with the bad because it’s a long season.” As a result, he said, “My confidence has grown so much since my first two years. I feel like I can be a difference-maker now.”
That’s an understatement, and I don’t know about you, but I hope that baby’s first Christmas is going swimmingly for the Howard family.
I hope you’re surviving it, too.
Update #2: NHL.com’s Dave Lozo delivers a lump of coal via a list of power rankings:
8 Detroit (21-12-1) [last week] 4 : In their five losses to non-playoff teams (Caps, Jackets, Avs and Flames twice), the Red Wings have been outscored 22-7. Ty Conklin was in net for four of those games.
Update #2.5: Henrik Zetterberg was the only Wing featured in TSN’s annual athletic rendering of, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
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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.