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HockeyFest marks new beginning for fans

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – While the players prepare for the upcoming season with captain’s practices and training camp, the fans began their preparation at Joe Louis Arena today as HockeyFest consumed Joe Louis Arena.

This was the third time that Carrie Studer, a Red Wings’ season ticket holder, had attended HockeyFest. Studer was accompanied by her friend Nicole Waniewski, who was experiencing the event for the first time.

“I just love hockey, I love the team,” Studer said. “This always gets me excited for the season to start.”

Waniewski added: “It’s great, I never really get to wander around. We just did the press box tour and it’s nice to see all aspects of The Joe.”

Fans had the opportunity to tour the press box as well as the team locker room in addition to many other interactive games like hardest shot, accuracy shooting, goalie challenge, stick handling and mini-stick hockey. Photo opportunities were available with the retired No. 5 Nicklas Lidstrom banner, 2008 Stanley Cup banner and Al the Octopus, and some players participated in Q&A sessions with fans as well.

Seventeen different Red Wings were available for autographs throughout the event as well as alumni Alex Delvecchio, Ted Lindsay, Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy and Jason Woolley.

“Hanging out with all of the kids, seeing the smiles on all of their faces and getting autographs,” said Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who signed autographs with his two-year-old son James by his side. “I certainly remember when I was that little and I thoroughly enjoyed whenever I got to meet someone I looked up to.”

Jeff Casey from Windsor, Ontario, brought his two-year-old son Carlo with him to HockeyFest as well.

“I just hope he likes it,” Jeff said as Carlo played on the mini-stick rink set up on the arena concourse. “(I want) him to experience the hockey atmosphere, which I think the Red Wings do so well.”

Players signed autographs at various stations around the concourse while the main stage and games were set up on the covered ice surface. This was the sixth year that Howard has participated in HockeyFest.

“I’ve pretty much done it all from the Q&As and autograph sessions,” he said. “Whatever it is it’s always fun and a unique experience for the fans and for us.”

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