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Hockeytown North shows its support for Wings

by Christy Hammond / Detroit Red Wings
Jim McCarty, of Bay City, Mich., has made it to all but one Red Wings' training camp in Traverse City.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Center I.C.E. Arena hosts the fans that make up Hockeytown North each September when the Red Wings come to Traverse City for training camp. The collection of fans waiting outside the arena and the over-flow crowd that watches the action inside come from all four corners of the state.

Each fan had similar reasons for attending training camp – a chance to see the players, get player autographs, and watch hockey – but they all show their passion in different ways.

Friends Ashley Droelle and Amanda Murray drove up from suburban Detroit to Traverse City on Thursday to attend their first ever Red Wings’ training camp. On Sunday, they got autographs from Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl and Chris Osgood. They opted to stay outside during the practices with the hopes of getting a picture with Valtteri Filppula, but planned on heading inside for the scrimmages.

Murray enjoys making crafts and took it upon herself last year to create a skirt and jacket that proudly showed off her favorite player because she had a hard time finding Filppula T-shirts in stores. Droelle put together her own skirt after seeing Murray’s, but featured Jonathan Ericsson instead of the Finn.

“I sewed the wrap myself and then just ironed on the numbers and painted the big numbers,” Murray said.

As the sun beat down on the parking lot adjacent to the players’ entrance at Center I.C.E. Arena, Jim McCarty and his friend Connie Underhill cooled down in his decorated car.

“With the name McCarty, people just associate me with the Red Wings,” he said. “They know I’m a Red Wings nut and [my car] was just one of those things that I had to have.”

McCarty has made it to every single training camp held in Traverse City but one and the Bay City native noticed a slightly different feel at camp this year.

“It’s just the energy of the team,” McCarty said. “They seemed really focused. They were one game short last year and they are going to do their best to make sure it doesn’t happen again this year.”
Amanda Murray (left) and her friend Ashley Droelle showed their support in their new homemade Red Wings skirts.

Ten years ago, Underhill was camping with friends in the area when somebody suggested that they go watch the Wings while they were in town. Unfortunately when she got to camp, she did not have a ticket and security made her leave the waiting area outside the rink. She didn’t make that mistake again as she arrived at the rink before security on the following day, asking fan after fan if they had an extra ticket. She finally found one and the rest was history.

Despite the fact that she has purchased tickets over the last 10 years, Underhill has never ventured into the arena. She prefers to stay outside, interacting with other diehard fans and the players from 5 or 6 a.m. until security comes out and says that all of the players have left in the evening.

She prepares for camp by creating something that the players can sign. For example, she made two lamps as goalie masks and brought shades for the entire team to sign before the start of the 2007-08 season. This year, she made paintings of each individual player and hopes to eventually get them all signed.

Twenty-one year-old Justin Carter missed the last few training camps because he was at college, but returned this year to get more autographs on his already well-signed Wings’ jersey.

“It’s just a nice, small atmosphere and I like that they come up to this area because there are a lot of fans here [in the Traverse City region],” he said.

His mother Doreen got him to attend his first camp, with this year’s camp being her eighth. She keeps coming back because of “all the personal contact the players have with the fans.”

Seeing the smiles of fans getting their jerseys signed and noticing the large number of cameras lining the first row of bleachers alone, it’s easy to see why these fans keep coming back for more year after year.

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