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Goalies sign for good causes

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
Joey MacDonald and Jimmy Howard
TROY, Mich. – A pair of Red Wings’ netminders – and quite a few enthusiastic fans – kept busy in an effort to raise money for two Metro Detroit charities at Hockeytown Authentics.

Wings goalies Jimmy Howard and Joey MacDonald signed autographs for fans, many of whom waited outside the store for hours to meet the pair.

“It’s a good surprise,” Howard said of the line that stretched around the perimeter of the building. “It’s nice to know that the fans really like you. … I appreciate the support.”

By making a $20 donation, fans were able to get one item signed by both goaltenders. All donations received will be split between Howard’s charity of choice, the Arthritis Foundation, and the non-profit selected by MacDonald, Operation: Kid Equip.

“I’ve dealt with this charity numerous times before,” Howard said of his charity, which is the largest private, not-for-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world.

“Being an athlete and everything like that, down the line I probably will have arthritis so it’s just a good fit,” Howard joked. “It’s a good way to give back.”

Over $6,000 were raised through the event, which saw around 350 people pass through the store. In addition to the donation to the Arthritis Foundation, half of the proceeds will go to Operation: Kid Equip, which helps at-risk students in the tri-county area by providing free school supplies, books, hygiene, clothing and food items to help them get through the school day. The non-profit also works to increase awareness of the issues facing school-aged children to empower them to succeed in school and in life.

The event was the third autograph-signing that the Wings have held this season. The first featured Henrik Zetterberg and helped raise over $8,700 for the Wings’ annual Smoke Detector Collection. The second, held during the holiday season, saw Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader sign autographs as part of the Wings’ contributions to The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.

At the front of the line at Hockeytown Authentics was Anthony Knapp, who drove from Lansing, Mich., with three friends early Wednesday morning to ensure that they would get autographs from the goalies.

“Knowing it was going to be a big crowd, we wanted to come down early,” Knapp said. “Made sure we got a wristband; we didn’t want to drive down for nothing.”

A lifelong Wings fan, Knapp frequently attends Grand Rapids Griffins games, where he saw a lot of Howard and MacDonald before they were recalled by the Wings.

“Got to know Joey real well this last year when he was in Grand Rapids,” Knapp said. “He’s come down and filled the position well – still miss (Chris) Osgood – but Joey’s doing a good job too.”

Knapp, who has a full room at home dedicated to his collection of signed sports memorabilia, is no stranger to waiting in lines for players’ autographs: he’s waited up to 12 hours before to secure a signature for his sports shrine.

“My collection consists of about 7,000 autographs,” Knapp said. “I have over 4,000 sports cards signed, and I have about 3,000 pucks, baseballs, photos, sticks, helmets, mini-helmets.”

With a full-sized hockey mask for Howard and a puck for MacDonald to sign, Knapp led the line to the table where the goaltenders waited with a multitude of markers.

“Usually blockers, gloves, and you’ll see the occasional sticks, but that’s about it,” Howard said when asked what kinds of items he typically signs. “I haven’t seen any pads or helmets or anything like that.”

And for anyone concerned about Howard signing hundreds of autographs after fracturing his right index finger last month, don’t worry, he signs with his left hand. 

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