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Detroit will be rockin' for NHL opener

by Brian Compton
DETROIT – Are you ready to rock?

The NHL and Def Leppard certainly are.

A little over 24 hours before one of the all-time great rock bands takes the stage at the Fox Theatre down the street, the festivities got under way at Joe Louis Arena, where the hockey portion of NHL Face-Off Rocks 2008 will take place when the Detroit Red Wings meet the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RIS).
Undoubtedly, both Joe Louis Arena and the Fox Theatre will be rocking Thursday night, as the Wings raise their 2007-08 Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters before hosting the Leafs. Meanwhile, Def Leppard will play their hit, “C’Mon, C’Mon,” an arena-inspired song that certainly will be played at arenas around the NHL throughout the course of the season.

Both the banner raising and the early portion of the concert will be shown on VERSUS and CBC, which will makes it a hard night’s work for the NHL’s production crew.

“It’s quite a complex show,” said Brian Jennings, the NHL’s Executive Vice President of Marketing. “We’re very excited. There will be a lot more than hockey played tomorrow night. We want to build on the momentum that we generated last season. This is a celebration of our fans, and it’s inspired by our fans.”

Also present at the press conference were Red Wings forwards Darren McCarty and Kirk Maltby, who are old enough to remember hits such as “Photograph” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” Maltby said he loves the idea of the NHL and Def Leppard coming together for what will be a very special event.

“There’s a lot of traditionalists that don’t want to mess with anything, and I’m kind of one of those to a certain degree,” Maltby said. “At the same time, I realize you have to move forward in every aspect of the game, whether it’s rule changes, uniforms or the way you kick off the season. You try to draw new people in and keep people interested. It’s just another thing. As much as somebody might love hockey, you don’t want to see the same thing day in and day out.”

Maltby admitted he’s not a big fan of today’s music and is very appreciative that it will be Def Leppard – which has sold more than 65 million albums worldwide – kicking off the 2008-09 NHL season in North America. Grammy-award winning Alanis Morissette will also be taking part in the event via satellite from Montreal.

“I grew up a big Def Leppard fan,” Maltby said. “That whole genre of music, it kind of went away and now it’s come back. I really enjoy it, because a lot of today’s music doesn’t do it for me. I’m glad they kind of went old-school.”

McCarty, who is nursing a groin injury, won’t be on the ice with the Wings tomorrow night. He said he may head over at some point to the Fox Theatre to check out what will definitely be a raucous atmosphere.

“They’re still kicking it hard,” said McCarty, who attended a Def Leppard concert during the off-season. “I think rock and roll and hockey go together really well. It’s really cool to be associated with these guys.”

While McCarty has experience as an air musician – he rocked out to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” in a talent competition back in high school – he claims he’s not the most gifted on the Red Wings.

So if he’s not, who is?

Derek Meech. He’s sick,” McCarty gushed. “Did you ever play that ‘Rock Band’? It’s sick. A lot of the younger guys play. We’ve got it at home for the Wii. I play with my kids. That’s what it’s all about. We’re the Mac Attack.”

"I grew up a big Def Leppard fan. That whole genre of music, it kind of went away and now it’s come back. I really enjoy it, because a lot of today’s music doesn’t do it for me. I’m glad they kind of went old-school." – Kirk Matlby

Maltby, who turns 36 in December, isn’t really into video games. But when informed of McCarty’s belief that Meech knows how to rock hard, he said he needs to find out for himself.

“Meechey is? I don’t know if I’ve had the honor of seeing him, but he’ll definitely have to bring that out,” Maltby said. “It’s funny, but the younger guys are into the Wii and X-Box and they play ‘Rock Band.’ I guess I’m an older guy and I just watch my TV.”

Fans across North America will certainly be tuned to their television sets tomorrow night to watch an unprecedented NHL event. Not only will they get to watch the special pre-game ceremony at Joe Louis Arena, but they’ll get to see Def Leppard kick off the NHL season.

As McCarty points out, what could be better?

And don’t be surprised to see Def Leppard – and other bands, as well – participate in more NHL events down the road.

“Bringing music and sports together is something that’s exciting for us,” said Andre Mika, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Broadband and New Media Production. “We certainly want to make this an annual event. We’ve got a couple of surprises, but I won’t give them up now. The people watching will have a lot of fun. Def Leppard is a terrific rock band. We’re working on lots of different projects with the band, which we’re really excited about.”
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