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Wings fans arrive ready to rock out

by Brian Compton

DETROIT — They started piling into the historic Fox Theatre as soon as the doors opened at 6 p.m. Not only were fans pumped to see the Detroit Red Wings raise their 2007-08 Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters five minutes down the road at Joe Louis Arena, but they were also excited to see one of rock-and-roll's most successful bands.

Yes indeed, Def Leppard is here. The anticipation of this unprecedented NHL event — Face-off Rocks 2008 — was overflowing in Motown.

While Def Leppard has been blasting through speakers for almost 30 years, it was an eclectic crowd that showed up at this 80-year-old venue. Sure, the middle-aged rockers were here. But they weren't alone.

"My mom's a big Def Leppard fan, so I've been listening to them since I was little," 12-year-old Joey Drolshagen told "This is awesome.

"I love the Wings," added Drolshagen, who plays defense on his local hockey team. "(Henrik) Zetterberg is my favorite player."

For some, attending the Face-Off Rocks concert was the next-best thing to attending the game itself. While fans would have loved being part of the capacity crowd at The Joe, the Fox Theatre provided die-hard fans with the chance not only to watch the broadcast of the banner-raising ceremony live, but to hear Def Leppard perform their hockey-inspired hit, "C'Mon, C'Mon."

"I think this is kind of cool," said Mike Kay, who accompanied Drolshagen and his mother to the show. "I've never been to anything like this, so I'm excited. We couldn't get tickets to the game, so we came over here."

Some even were given the opportunity to attend the game, only to decline. They had already committed themselves to rocking out down the street.

"Our cousin actually called us this morning with tickets to the Wings' game," 21-year-old Jamie Deane said. "We were already coming to this, and we've got good seats."

Deane is one of many denizens of Hockeytown who's seeing Def Leppard for the second time in less than two months. The band recently played in front of a raucous crowd at Joe Louis Arena.

"The show at Joe Louis was pretty good," Deane said. "We’ve been die-hard Wings fans our whole lives. It's going to be fun to watch the Wings and see Def Leppard."

Red Wings fans have certainly been treated to some good times during the last 11 years. In that time, the Wings have won four Stanley Cup championships and have been annual contenders.

Now, they've added Marian Hossa to the mix. Hossa's addition has Detroit as the favorites to win the 2009 Stanley Cup, which would make them back-to-back champions for the second time in a 10-year span.

"I love Marian Hossa," Deane said. "We were upset that they didn't go after him last year, but they didn’t want to give up all our young guys for him. We let Pittsburgh get him, and it turned out good for us."

Unlike Deane, Wings fan Ken Hall wasn't offered a chance to attend the game — but that was just fine by him. Sporting a Darren McCarty jersey, Hall wanted another opportunity to see one of his favorite bands.

"I've been seeing Def Leppard since 1984," Hall said proudly. "That was the first time I saw them. It was at The Castle in Chalevoix, Mich. We got tickets for this. I had to come see Def Leppard again. This is a great idea."

Just like it was a great idea for the Wings to go out and sign Hossa. But if the bulls-eye wasn't on Detroit prior to the signing, it certainly is now. Hall says bring it.

"It's no big deal," Hall said, oozing with confidence. "The bulls-eye is on us every year."

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