The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/28/11 at 05:55 AM ET
Now that it’s over, it should be said: Mike Commodore may turn out to be nothing more than a #6/7 defenseman for the Red Wings, pushing Jakub Kindl for ice time and adding some bulk to the lineup while playing limited minutes, but he displayed an All-Star’s amount of aplomb in delicately declining to wear #64 while promising to make good on matching Puck Daddy’s charitable drive and supporting the modern version of the computer company whose owner’s comments gave Commodore good reason to stick with #22.
Through a series of Twitter posts about what had become a testy issue, a professional athlete managed to offend almost no one while getting his message across in a sincere manner. That’s pretty damn impressive in this day and age.
I have to tread lightly here, but to put it…Delicately…A certain co-worker whose opinion I respect but happen to disagree with in this instance suggested that the charitable gimmick crossed professional lines, and while I can tell you that Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer didn’t blink before telling the Free Press’s George Sipple that #64 was Commodore’s if he wanted it—given the Wings’ history of allowing players to wear high numbers, I don’t think that, organizationally speaking, it was a big deal—Commodore basically dangled through a minefield like Pavel Datsyuk while casting any questions of a possible professional distraction aside.
Again, here’s what he said on Twitter:
I guess word is out that I will be wearing 22 this year. It was a really tough decision that I went back and forth on many times….. wearing 64 would have been neat and cool, but I just didn’t feel like this was the right year to do it. In my opinion getting an…opportunity to play in Detroit is a special thing, and I felt like I needed to wear a # that is special to me. 22 is that # for me…I really appreciate the interest and support the #64 generated, I wish @Commodore64 all the best with there computers, as a matter a fact I…am going to order one when I get to Detroit, and I will get in touch with @wyshynski about the $64 pledges, and I will match it and donate…money to charity. Which charity that is I don’t know yet, but I will figure it that out in sept when I get to Detroit.
my bad…I meant @CommodoreUSA…not commodore 64. I also meant “their computers” not “there computers”. #NotaStrongWriter Now I need to sign off. I have a hockey tourney in Vegas I need to pack for and dominate. Stay Single My Friends.
Better that we’re talking about a smart hockey player donating seven-plus thousand bucks to charity than a computer company’s chairman cashing in on Commodore’s jersey number for the sake of pure cross-promotional profit.
If you want to talk about inciting controversy when one looks at the Wings’ website’s roster page, I have to raise my eyebrow regarding one of the other numerical inclinations of a player who’s generally worn #9 as a pro, as noted by MLive’s Ansar Khan:
According to DetroitRedWings.com, defenseman Ian White will wear No. 18, the number worn by Kirk Maltby from 1996-2010. White wore No. 9 in San Jose but, obviously, that’s Gordie Howe’s number and has been retired for some time.
Defenseman Garnet Exelby will wear No. 3, which was last worn by Andreas Lilja, and forward Chris Conner will wear No. 41. Both are expected to start the season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Given that Brian Lashoff will probably wear #25 if he’s called up, and that Derek Meech wore #14 for the past two seasons and that Ruslan Salei wore #24 last season, guess we have to get used to this sort of thing, but I hope the Wings at least hold off on allowing other players to wear #30 or #33 for a few months, barring any…Hopefully civil discussions as to the sanctity of certain numbers.
Instead, we can talk about the Red Wings’ launching of something called “Operation Bobblehead” to determine, well, I’ll let DetroitRedWings.com’s Rick Bouwness explain it:
The 11-time Stanley Cup champion Red Wings will be distributing bobblehead figurines depicting current members of the team to the first 7,500 fans in attendance at Joe Louis Arena at every Thursday night home game during the upcoming 2011-12 NHL season. Furthermore, a select number of Specially-Marked Bobbleheads will be handed out at every Thursday night game, with the lucky JLA patrons obtaining these exclusive items set to win additional prizes such as a one-of-a-kind Red Wings fan experience involving a post-game player meet-and-greet.
As part of ‘Operation: Bobblehead’, four of the six players to be featured in this special giveaway promotion will be determined by an impending multi-week online voting campaign, which will be conducted simultaneously at DetroitRedWings.com as well as via the club’s official Facebook page and on the Red Wings TV video portal.
“We always look for the best items possible to present to our fans,” said Tom Wilson, president of Olympia Entertainment. “Remarkably, it always comes down to bobbleheads being the souvenir that most fans want, and want to keep and display. It’s a great memory of a great time at The Joe. The difference this year is that the fans will tell us who they want portrayed on the bobbles – so we are in this together.”
Compliments of AT&T, the exclusive communications partner of the Detroit Red Wings and Joe Louis Arena, the first bobblehead to be distributed as part of this special season-long series will depict veteran playmaker Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk’s bobblehead will be handed out to arena spectators on October 13 prior to Detroit’s matchup with the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks. The likeness of team captain and seven-time Norris Trophy recipient Nicklas Lidstrom, who recently announced that he will be returning to Detroit for his 20th NHL season, will adorn the final bobblehead given away – on April 5 vs. New Jersey.
Every active member of the Red Wings’ roster will be eligible to have their image emblazoned upon a 6 ½ inch polyresin figurine for the remaining four bobblehead giveaway nights. The ‘Operation: Bobblehead’ campaign begins on Thursday, July 28 at one minute past noon. Voting will be conducted on a week-by-week basis and will close at noon every Thursday. The following day (Friday) at 12:01 p.m. EDT, voting will begin anew; no ballots cast the previous week will count towards each player’s total. There is no limit on how many votes fans are able to cast throughout the duration of this campaign.
Red Wings’ 2011-12 Bobblehead Giveaway Schedule
Thursday, October 13 vs. Vancouver – PAVEL DATSYUK (Presented by AT&T)
Thursday, November 3 vs. Calgary – Winner of Fan Vote #1 (Presented by DMC)
Thursday, December 8 vs. Phoenix – Winner of Fan Vote #2 (Presented by Amway)
Thursday, January 12 vs. Phoenix – Winner of Fan Vote #3
Thursday, February 23 vs. Vancouver – Winner of Fan Vote #4
Thursday, April 5 vs. New Jersey – NICKLAS LIDSTROM
(NOTE: all games begin at 7:30 p.m.)
Switching gears in a big way, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness offers us a the-day-after take on the Grind Line’s legacy in light of Kris Draper’s retirement on Tuesday, as told by Kirk Maltby, Draper, Darren McCarty, one of the line’s contemporaries and its original glove-dropping element:
With “The Grind Line” consisting of three forwards, Kocur came up with a radical idea for the reunion of linemates.
“I’ll play defense,” Kocur laughed. “We’ve got to do that. That’s got to be our first big (Wings Alumni) game. I’ll need a good defense partner if I’m on defense,” Kocur added. “I might see if I can get (Larry) Murphy in for that game.”
“It was a line that could play against anybody, other team’s tough guys or top line because they were very responsible,” Murphy said. “You always felt comfortable when that line was on the ice. You look at any championship team, there are a lot of different elements you need to win and we had that grinding type of line that could play that type of hockey. Malts was a guy who was extremely effective in getting under people’s skin, Drapes was tremendous skater, tremendous forechecker, had the ability to create havoc, they always had to be aware when he was on the ice, the ability to turn pucks over, he was tough to play against. Mac and Joey brought a lot of toughness to the line.”
And because of it, Draper, Maltby and McCarty have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup four times.
“I didn’t even think about it (Monday) night that he’s the last of the Grind Line to go,” said Kocur, who won three Stanley Cups with the Wings, two as a player and another as a coach, and another as a member of the New York Rangers.
While nobody in Hockeytown will ever confuse “The Grind Line” with “The Production Line” they played a major role in helping end the Wings’ 42-year Stanley Cup drought. And for that “The Grind Line” will be engraved in the memories of all that call Hockeytown their home.
Ain’t that the truth, as is Ken Holland’s reasoning as to why the Red Wings ensure that players who were invaluable on and off the ice remain with the organization in some capacity—especially in the cases of the players who’ve won multiple Cups with the team—as he told the Free Press’s Helene St. James:
Speaking at Draper’s retirement news conference Tuesday, general manager Ken Holland made note of how character played a key role in the Wings winning four Stanley Cups between 1997-08.
“People look at our team from afar, and they think we win because we’ve got lots of skill,” he said. “We’ve had enough skill. We’ve had unbelievable people that really care about the team, they really care about the city, they really care about the history, they care about one another, and they sacrifice. It’s hard to lose those kinds of people.”
Draper, [Chris] Osgood and Maltby were all retained by the team to help mold the future as members of the front office: Maltby as a scout, Osgood as a goaltending mentor and Draper in a business-side role yet to be determined.
All three played similar roles while playing. Osgood very conscientiously worked to guide Jimmy Howard as he progressed from backup to starter. Draper and Maltby mentored Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, along with setting examples for slightly older players such as Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves.
“I think that they’ve done unbelievable work off the ice and they’ve had an impact on the careers of the Darren Helms, the Abdelkaders, Millers, Eaves, Jan Mursaks,” Holland said. “Now it’s somebody else’s time.”
And it’s time for those “somebody elses” to soak up as much as humanly possible from Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom while they’re still around.
In case you missed it, the Wings also confirmed the signings of Grand Rapids Griffins-to-be and dark-horse prospects Jordan Pearce and Francis Pare to two-year contract extensions on Wednesday, basically concluding the Wings’ contractual moves for the summer, in the multimedia department, Draper spoke to WRIF’s Drew and Mike on Wednesday morning…
And as today is a “beach day,” it is my sincere hope that the only Red Wings-related topic of new note this morning involves the fact that Expressen’s Henrik Sjoberg officially kicks off “the only Wings news left is of the foreign-language variety” season with an interview with Henrik Zetterberg.
Here’s a rough translation thereof, and I must note beforehand that Sjoberg spends an extended period of time talking to Zetterberg about the fact that the 2012 World Championships will be held in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden:
“Backis ended up in a very nasty seat”
Sundsvall. He’s tired of the complaining from NHL pros that they can’t be there for the Tre Kronor [the Swedish national team]. He doesn’t hesitate when asked about his own World Championships experience is mentioned.
“It’s not often that you get the chance to play in the World Championships on your home territory. If I was able to take part? Yes, I think that question doesn’t need to be answered, says Henrik Zetterberg, who, in an exclusive interview with SPORT-Expressen, discusses everything from his injury concerns to any future Eliteserien comeback, and discusses his hectic summer.
It’s just after 2 o’clock when Henrik Zetterberg parks his SUV in the parking lot at a restaurant on Alno, outside Sundsvall.
He gets out and looks around, and it doesn’t take long before youngsters see him and come running up with their autograph books.
We sit down and talk about many things—but it’s not until the topic of the media and people’s views on the national team comes up that he really shows that he’s 30 years old now.
Zetterberg has poise and gives it straight. He stands behind his opinions.
“People say that in recent years it’s become boring. (Nicklas) Backstrom had broken his thumb in the playoffs and when he didn’t go to the World Championships, he was treated with suspicion. He ended up in a very nasty seat,” says Zetterberg.
We continue to discuss the issue of NHL players playing for the national team after a long, hard season in the NHL.
“A big step”
“Say that you get to the World Championships after a twelve-hour flight and no sleep, and are expected be right out there playing in the quarterfinals of the World Championships. You won’t play like yourself and you god-damned know it. It’s a big step to come and feel that you can [actually] perform.”
Zetterberg would rather that [Swedish national team GM] Par Marts focuses on players who aren’t from the NHL.
“There are players who’ve been involved with the national team throughout the year, in every tournament. We’re not that much better. We can’t play in advance to get to where the players at home are better.”
You suffered a knee injury just before the playoffs. How’s your knee now?
“I was able to focus on rehabilitating it right away. I’ve been able to train fully now all summer long.”
What about the back problems you’ve had before?
“I can’t fool myself anymore. I’m not 22 years old now, and soon I’ll be 31. Everyone can get lumbago [chronic back pain] and you might deal with it more often if you’re not careful. But I’ve learned to live with it and it doesn’t worry me or weigh me down.”
We’re fairly quickly be going into the World Championships next year, with it being held in Sweden and Finland.
“A damn good thing.”
And if Detroit doesn’t succeed in the Stanley Cup playoffs, will you take part?
“It’s not often that you get the chance to play in the World Championships on your home ground. I think that question answers itself. I wish the World Championship was at any other time so that I could take part more often, but you can’t do it if you’re going to have the World Championships every year.”
How often do you think the World Championship should be played?
“From a sporting perspective, every two years. The World Championship is good hockey, and should get more play in the media. When people claim it’s boring or pissy we’d see a progression then,” says the NHL star.
Plays lots of golf
We glide back quickly to the World Championships that were held in Bratislava earlier this year.
“For the media to keep whining about the team, saying it was the worst ever, check out the players they had. But dammit, we got to the final. And it sold well. But it’s black or white all the time.”
The moment Zetterberg ladles in his creamed fish, he talks about his life at home on his summer holiday. It’s a busy schedule.
“There are two families that have to be satisfied, so there’s little wriggle room. The weekends and weeks are quickly booked, but I try to get onto the water and the golf course often.”
Then, everything’s replaced by seriousness. After his Stanley Cup championships and the loss in the final the following year, Detroit was knocked out of two straight playoff runs by San Jose, in the second round.
“Why? Most importantly, the league’s so even. You used to be able to reach the semifinals without playing your very best. But it’s different now.”
You’ll be 40 when your contract expires in 2021. How will you manage to keep playing up to Nicklas Lidstrom’s level till then?
“It’s probably impossible. We can remove that bar immediately. It’s unique for someone to play at that level for so long, but I hope and believe that I can play until then.”
So you won’t make a comeback in the Eliteserien?
“I can’t believe that any team would want me when I’m 41. Then you’d need Backstrom as your center and Pavel Datsyuk on the wing to accomplish anything,” says Zetterberg. “But if your game keeps developing, you never know whether you can play in Timra when you’re 41.”
Wanted Sedins to win
Before Zetterberg sets off for his summer home a few coves away, we talk about the Sedin brothers—and why he wanted the brothers to win the coveted Stanley Cup championship.
“We’ve got two players who’ve had pressure on themselves from the moment they stepped onto the ice over there. The headlines suggested that they came from the moon to the earth to play hockey. They may still undeservedly get crap from the media over here. It would have been incredibly cool for them to win and get everyone to shut up.”
Zetterberg also spoke to Sjoberg about changing his stick manufacturer from Easton to Warrior in a blog entry:
Why Zata changed his supplier
I met Henrik Zetterberg yesterday in Sundsvall. Or in Alno, just out of town.
We sat down at Vindhem and ate a bit. It’s always good to see him. Partly because he’s such a tremendously talented and great hockey player, and partly because he’s from Njurunda, outside my hometown.
Since I was a huge equipment geek when I played, I had to ask him why he changed things up last year. His skates and sticks. Easton to Bauer and Warrior. Zetterberg was a little well-known for those silver Easton skates that made him stand out a bit awkwardly, I think.
You look sharper now.
“I feel it, too. I probably looked like an old fox in them previously.”
Well, almost. Why did you change them?
“I used Easton in the Salt Lake [Olympics] and had a contract for four more years. Without going into details, our agreement ended. I have Bauer skates now and I use Warrior sticks. Warrior is a Detroit-based company and I know many people who work there. They’ve taken steps forward and are incredibly good.”
Zata has some interesting opinions these days. You can tell that he’s older, and displays great authority when he expresses his views.
After two difficult playoff runs it seems as if he knows it’s time to deliver this winter. It was 2008 when he last won something, too…
Again, ain’t that the truth.
And as the Czech press’s splashy articles about Jaromir Jagr getting ready for the NHL season and blathering on about how he’s going to be hated in Pittsburgh are no longer Red Wings-related (seriously, if I were ever to use the term “blessing in disguise,” it would involve the fact that Jagr did not end up in Detroit—what an unbelievably egotistical jerk!), I can very happily say goodnight and good morning. I’ll check in sometime during the afternoon to see what’s up, but other than that, I’m hoping to spend my day under a beach umbrella and/or experiencing temporary hypothermia in Lake Superior.
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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.