– The second and third grade classes at Glazer Elementary School received a special treat Monday afternoon.
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader
visited the classes and read one of his favorite childhood stories, “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper.
“It was kind of cool, they picked the story out for me, but it turns out that it was one of my favorites growing up anyways,” said Abdelkader.
After reading the book while the kids watched attentively, Abdelkader answered some of their questions. Some questions were common, like, “What school did you go to?” and “How did you became a Red Wing?”
Other questions showed the lighter side of the former second-round draft pick, who attended Michigan State University.
One student asked, “How did you balance academics and sports through high school and college?”
“It was tough, obviously you’re really busy, you’re practicing every day and on the road, but for me I always tried to get my school work done and this started even before college,” he said. “My mom and dad would always say to get my homework done before I can go out and play. Then in college I would bring my homework on the road to the hotel rooms and we would have study hours where all of the guys would get together and do their homework.”
Another student asked Abdelkader if “he played any other sports as a kid?”
“I did, I liked everything,” he said. “I played football, basketball and a little soccer growing up. In middle school and all the way up until my sophomore year of high school I played quarterback and I really enjoyed football. Once my junior year came around I had to make a choice and I already played hockey in the fall and the winter so I chose hockey. I did enjoy every sport and I think that’s important, to not narrow it down to just one sport.”
So how did hockey stand out to Abdelkader from the very beginning?
“Everybody thinks that somebody in your family played, but no one in my family played,” he said. “I kind of got thrown in with a few of my dad’s friends and his kid played hockey and I kind of fell in love with the game right when I first touched the ice. I still remember as a kid my dad would come in my room Saturday and Sunday mornings because we would have the ice at about 6:30 a.m. and he would come in about 5:30 or 6 and he would ask, ‘time for hockey, right?’ I would get up and jump right out of bed and get ready and get dressed and I think he knew right then that I had a love for the game.”
So what did Abdelkader think of reading one of his favorite stories to the kids?
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to interact and read a book and be someone to look up to and see that reading and education is important.”
Glazer Principal LaChelle Williams was also happy with the visit and knows the kids were, too.
“I see their excitement and it’s great,” she said, “especially for the month of March, which is national reading month.”LOOKING TO FINISH STRONG:
Back home after a nine-day road trip, the Red Wings now find themselves confronting a stretch of three games in four days, beginning with the Los Angeles on Wednesday.
“We’re excited now and looking forward to being home and we’re still in a good place in the Western Conference,” Abdelkader said. “All season we have set ourselves up for a good March and we’ve got a lot of home games coming up.
“Obviously that last game against Phoenix didn’t go the way we wanted it when we have a 4-1 lead. We don’t want to give the lead up like that, and hopefully we can move forward and be a better team from it.”