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Helmets, and sticks, and gloves, oh my!

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Opening night starts in a few hours, but for Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer, the season began seven weeks ago.

The new patch that the Red Wings will wear to honor their fallen friends.

“My opening night started August 15, by loading a truck, getting orders, making sure that I have pants and gloves. It never stops,” said Boyer, in his 17th season with the organization. “It’s more exciting at the beginning of camp, when we know that we have to get going again. We have to get 63 guys up to Traverse City and get going.”

In the hours leading up to the season-opener against Ottawa, Boyer and his crew had to put new league-mandated two-inch numbers on the front of each players’ helmet. They also had to adhere patches, which pay homage to three former Red Wings killed last month in a Russian jetliner crash, to the left sleeve of each players’ jersey, as well as sew a special commemorative ‘Love for Lokomotiv’ patch on the inside of the jerseys.

Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei and former prospect Stefan Liv were among 44 people who died Sept. 7 when the plane that was carrying their Lokomotiv hockey team crashed shortly after takeoff.

Tonight’s set of jerseys will eventually be sold to the public, with the proceeds going to the McCrimmon and Salei families. The plan is for the Wings to also make a special road ‘white’ set available. They will either wear that set later in the year at Anaheim of Philadelphia.

The new helmet numbers are meant to help the broadcast cameramen identify players.

“Really, it’s not much more than a regular game day,” Boyer said. “It’s the time leading up then just the day itself. Now today with our new patch going on, we have a little more to do.

“Normally, we like to wear the first set of jerseys in the last exhibition game, but we couldn’t do that because we hadn’t decided on a patch yet. And we also still had a lot of (Grand Rapids) guys still up here. But it’s the whole week that’s busy.”

Boyer has been busy with getting guys fitted with new skates, helmets and gloves. Typically, he would take that time after camp to get guys broken into new equipment.

“I don’t have the time to think about the excitement of opening night,” he said. “You just have too many things to get done. I’m just trying to make sure that we can get on the ice and play tonight.”
The new NHL-mandated numbers that the players must now wear on the front of their helmets this season.
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