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Red Wings join the Salvation Army

by John McGourty
Talent has a lot to do with it, but one of the biggest reasons the Detroit Red Wings have been the NHL's most successful team over the past decade is that individuals within the team never stop competing.

They compete against their opponents, of course, and their practices are filled with minor contests between shooters and goalies, lines vs. lines, etc.

And, they compete to see who can raise the most money at the holidays each year for the Salvation Army. It's no surprise that the defending champions are General Manager Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock. They'll be Red Kettle Bell Ringers again Tuesday afternoon from 3-5 p.m. at Hiller's Market, 425 N. Center Street, Northville, MI.

So, confident of winning are they that three sets of players will know their bosses' haul before they appear at Kroger's Stores elsewhere in the Detroit area this evening. From 5-7 p.m., Kirk Maltby will be seeking donations at Kroger's at 20903 Harper Ave., Harper Woods; Jiri Hudler and Brett Lebda will be at Kroger's at 685 East Maple Road in Birmingham; and Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall will be at Kroger's at 17447 Haggerty Road in Northville.

The team will also host red kettles at home games on Thursday during the San Jose Sharks game and Saturday during the Los Angeles Kings game. They hosted the Salvation Army Monday night during their game against the Colorado Avalanche. Fans attending Red Wings games on those nights have the opportunity to assist the Salvation Army in meeting its Metro Detroit goal of $8.5 million to sustain its annual services.

"This is going to be a fun week for the Red Wings and The Salvation Army," said Holland. "We look forward to hosting Red Kettles at our games, and we're excited to be at locations throughout the area ringing bells on Tuesday. The need to support The Salvation Army is more important than ever, and I hope our fans will join us and help raise crucial funds to support the many great services they offer."

Holland revealed the secret to his success. He calls all his friends, and he has many, and asks them to hustle down to Hiller's between 3-5 p.m.

"Last year, Mike Babcock and I rang the bell for 2-3 hours at Hiller's and we had a competition between the players and the coach and GM," Holland said. "Naturally, Mike and I won by having the most money put in the pot on our shift. Two years ago, I went on the mobile truck that gives lunches to the poor.

"The Salvation Army approached us three years ago and while they were thrilled with the exposure we could provide, we were thrilled that we could help out such a wonderful cause. They approached us the next year and it was natural to continue it. We were asked again this year and we think it's been great for our organization and theirs. It's been a wonderful partnership.

"Cindi and I and our son, Greg, helped serve Thanksgiving Day breakfast at the Salvation Army this year," Holland continued. "Cindi and I have been the co-chairs of the annual Salvation Army Dinner. Cindi went this past Friday. I couldn't be there this year. We get about 300-400 people and it's a big fundraiser."

Getting back to the intrasquad fundraising competition, Holland admitted he has a few more resources at his disposal than the players.

"We had people working the phones to get people we know to come and make donations while we're on the beat," Holland said with a giggle. "No way Mike and I wanted to lose to the players."

We can just see Babcock jawboning passersby to contribute.

"Well, Mike turned up the heat a little bit on them," Holland laughed. "He gives them that sideways look, like when the team is not playing well."

No doubt. But it's all in a good cause.

If you're in the Detroit area this week, especially today, get down to a Krogers or Hiller's and help those in need.

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