– Hockeytown really doesn’t have limits.
Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, despite growing up in Baltimore, Md., has been a Red Wings’ fan since he was around 12-years-old, and says his kids are growing up Wings’ fans, too.
“I’ve always been a Red Wings’ fan,” Schwartz said. “When the original Nintendo game came out, the Red Wings were unbeatable. (Sergei) Fedorov and (Steve) Yzerman, I mean, they were literally unbeatable. My brother would always be the Blackhawks, I’d always be the Wings, and I’d always win.”
Prior to accepting the Lions coaching job in 2009, he spent 10 years as the defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. He traveled all the way to Tennessee after midnight Friday to successfully convince one of his former players, defensive end Kyle VandenBosch, to join him with the Lions.
So Friday’s matchup between the Wings and the Nashville Predators was the perfect place to bring VandenBosch. After picking up the newest Lion and his family at Metro Airport, they drove straight to Joe Louis Arena.
“We’ll get him here, get him the flavor of the city, sort of get him out a little bit and hit the ground running,” Schwartz said. “And there’s no better way than to see the excitement of this game and Hockeytown.”
Schwartz joked that VandenBosch was slightly apprehensive about donning the Red Wings jersey, having just returned from vacation with Predators captain Jason Arnott.
“It’s funny, he’s pretty good friends with Jason Arnott,” Schwartz said. “So we had a Red Wings jersey for him, and he was like, ‘Jeez,’ you know, and I was like ‘No, you’re in Detroit now.’ ”
Arnott said VandenBosch will always be a friend, but are there hard feelings that he left the Tennessee Titans for the Lions?
"No not really, I understand a little bit," Arnott said. "His boys have my jersey at home, so as long as they wear it around the house that’s fine."
Although Schwartz has never played hockey, he loves seeing the games up-close, claiming that television doesn’t do the sport justice.
“When you go down to the ice and see how fast those guys are moving, and the velocity of the hits and things like that, it gets your blood pumping. It’s a cool thing to do.”
His kids are just now learning how to skate, even though their dad can’t stand up on blades.
“I’m an awful skater. Terrible,” Schwartz said. “I can’t even roller skate.”
Although he can’t make it to any Wings games during the grind of the NFL regular-season, he makes it to as many as possible when he is in town.
“Now that free agency has sort of kicked off, we’ll be here a lot more consistent, and there’ll be a lot more games that we can get to.”