To kick off the 2009-10 NHL season, the Red Wings threw a party.
The Wings with supporting partners Coke, FS Detroit, and 97.1 The Ticket, opened the doors to Joe Louis Arena at 3 p.m. on Friday to begin HockeyFest 2009, a two-day event to get fans ready for another run at a Stanley Cup championship.
The Joe Louis Arena ice surface was transformed into the central hub of HockeyFest ‘09, the area filled with games, mini ice rinks, Wings’ game-worn equipment and memorabilia, and two stages, complete with a DJ and live entertainment at the end of each night.
But the main attraction was the players themselves. Captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom
, and new member Jason Williams arrived on Friday. Williams was welcomed back to Hockeytown with a thunderous roar from the crowd when he was introduced. The foursome participated in the various games with fans, signed autographs, and answered questions in fan forums.
“You never know what kind of questions you’re going to get, but it was fun,” Lidstrom said. “To interact with the fans and being close to the fans again when you’ve been gone all summer, it was a fun time here.”
Holmstrom didn’t shy away from any of the questions asked by the Wings’ loyal fans. The rugged winger loved answering questions about the abuse he takes in front of the net, how he feels about some of the Wings’ opponents, and anything else the fans could come up with. While Holmstrom admitted he doesn’t have a lot of public speaking practice, he said the event was easy to handle because he was honest with his fans.
“It’s not that hard,” the man affectionately known as ‘Homer’ said. “You just answer the question, talk and be honest and have fun. Time goes by faster too when I have fun with the crowd.”
Dan Cleary joined Draper and Williams Saturday, and some legendary names in Detroit hockey history as well. Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland, Vice President Steve Yzerman, Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jim Nill, and PA Announcer Budd Lynch were on hand to speak with Wings fans throughout the day.
There were a variety of games for fans to take part in over the weekend. Kids got to choose some of the classics, like mini-stick hockey or bubble hockey. Fans tested their shooting skills, with stations set up to measure shot speed or accuracy. Score-o, the game played between periods at Red Wings games, was set up in one end, and people who scored received prizes. To top it off, kids laced up their roller skates to take part in a real hockey game.
Other features at HockeyFest 2009 included photo opportunities with Al the Octopus and the Miller Lite Zamboni, displays about the evolution of hockey equipment and Red Wings history, and Red Wing alumni autograph sessions. Friday’s alumni guests were former goaltender Eddie Mio and winger Brent Fedyk.
Red Wings radio announcer Ken Kal, who hosted the fan forum with Lidstrom and Holmstrom, said HockeyFest is a great event for the Hockeytown faithful.
“It gets you ready for the National Hockey League season and the Red Wings season,” Kal said. “And what I really like is the fact that the fans can do all the interactive stuff at ice level, and then they get an opportunity throughout the day to talk to their favorite Red Wing heroes. So I think its great for the fans to be up front close and personal with their heroes here at Hockeytown.”