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Mighty Mite enjoys Wings' military night

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings

Four-year-old Daniel Ramos holds on to the goalie stick given to him by Jimmy Howard in Tuesday morning. He and his parents, Daniel and Michelle, attended the Wings' morning skate as part of the team's annual Military Appreciation Night. (Photo by Eric Roush/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT Pavel Datsyuk Jimmy Howard Henrik Zetterberg Daniel Ramos.

No, it’s not a lineup change. It’s four-year-old Daniel Ramos’ new name. The little hockey player was so passionate about his favorite hockey team that he decided it was time for a big change.

“He actually changed his named a few months ago to Pavel Datsyuk Jimmy Howard Henrik Zetterberg Daniel Ramos,” said Daniel’s father, facetiously. “That was all his first name and then Ramos was his last name.”

Daniel Ramos and his wife, Michelle, brought their son to the Red Wings’ morning skate Tuesday as part of Detroit’s Military Appreciation Night, presented by Applebee's. Both parents are majors in the U.S. Army, and attended the event last year with then 3-year-old Daniel. The young boy immediately fell in love with hockey, and hasn’t looked back.

Since attending last year’s event, young Daniel has joined the Mighty Mites and traded morning cartoons for NHL highlights. His passion for hockey is only likely to grow, as he received a special gift Tuesday morning that may have been twice his size, but no bigger than the smile on his face: Howard’s goalie stick.

“He got into hockey because of our event last year at the Joe Louis Arena with the Red Wings,” explained Daniel’s father. “Now he plays it every Saturday, so to get Jimmy Howard’s stick is kind of icing on the cake.”

The Ramos’ were among 50 guests that were welcomed at the Red Wings’ morning skate as part of Detroit’s sixth annual Military Appreciation Night. Military members were also honored in the Quickens Loan Budd Lynch Veterans Suite and in two suites courtesy of Applebee’s during the matchup between Detroit and Winnipeg.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what we do and the guys pretty much taking the time out to bring us down here and give us a different perspective of being so close and actually seeing them skate, it was pretty nice,” said Tech Sergeant Chosniel Jefferson of the morning skate experience.

Jefferson attended the morning event with Staff Sergeant Steven Phillips, and both men received a surprise of their own at The Joe. After the skate, the military guests were welcomed in the Comerica Bank Legends Club for lunch provided by Applebee’s. When the elevator doors opened to take them to the club, Red Wings legend Kris Draper was standing on the other side.

“We saw him in the elevator when we were waiting to come up from downstairs,” Phillips explained. “The elevator opened and the lady gave us directions to come up, the elevator opened and he was right there by himself coming up, too.”

Draper, Jiri Fischer and Kirk Maltby were surprise guests at the event, and mingled, took pictures and signed autographs for the military guests.

“Realizing the sacrifices they do day in and day out for us so we can live a regular life, it’s something that probably we don’t say thank you enough,” Draper said. “But just to be able to come down here and take some pictures and sign some autographs and obviously they got to watch the Red Wings pre-game skate, it’s a great day and we’re privileged and honored to be able to do that.”

Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser certainly understands the sacrifices Draper spoke of. His father, Michael DeKeyser, is a veteran of the Vietnam War, which will make his attendance at Military Appreciation Night that much more special for DeKeyser.

“Anytime we can honor somebody like a veteran it means a lot,” DeKeyser said. “Especially to me, my dad is a veteran, so it’s pretty special. Anytime you can help people out who fought for your country it’s a great opportunity.”

As part of Military Appreciation Night, the first 7,500 fans in attendance received a military hat sporting a USO logo. Volunteers from Blue Star Mothers of America Chapter 180 were also on hand to collect care package items and monetary donations to ship to soldiers currently serving overseas. Fans had an opportunity to sign a banner autographed by the 2013-14 Red Wings team as well, that will be sent to the 51st Transportation Company, a Michigan-based military unit in Afghanistan.

The efforts will help those who fight for America’s freedom every day. And for Draper, there isn’t a battle more important than that.

“Sometimes people call us a hero, and you know what I mean, we’re just fortunate to play a game,” Draper said. “We play a game that we love and we get to do that and certainly to be able to do it for the Detroit Red Wings is special. But you know what, what the military does and what these people do day in and day out is truly amazing. They’re the real heroes, they’re the role models and we truly believe that.”

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