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Prospects experience cherry festival

by Rick Bowness / Detroit Red Wings
Forwards Julien Cayer and Andrej Nestrasil are joined by 39 other Red Wings' prospects at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City on Monday night. (Photo by Rick Bowness/Detroit Red Wings)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – After three days of grueling on-and-off ice training sessions, Red Wings development camp participants were able to enjoy an evening away from Centre Ice Arena on Monday as they made a special appearance at the popular National Cherry Festival. All 41 players attending this month’s camp were on hand for the proceedings, signing autographs and mingling with event patrons, including nine-year-old hockey fanatic Joey Marshall.

“It was neat to meet all of the players,” said Marshall, a Grandville, Mich., minor hockey defenseman on vacation with his parents. “I got all of their autographs. They were very nice.”

Traverse City has played host to the National Cherry Festival every summer since 1926, coincidentally the same year Detroit played its first NHL game. A celebration of cherries, tourism and community involvement, the festival attracts over 500,000 visitors annually and is a source of tremendous pride for the citizens of Grand Traverse County.

“It was really great of the players to come out and show their support for the festival,” said longtime Traverse City resident and Wings’ fan Kyle Douglas. “Everyone loves the team up here and getting to see them in person is a real thrill for us.”

For their part, the Wings’ prospects have nothing but fantastic things to say about their camp’s host city.

“I’ve actually been blown away by this town,” said goalie Jake Paterson, a Toronto native. “It’s a really nice spot. Our hotel is right on the beach and it’s just gorgeous up here, I can’t say enough good things about it.”

While Paterson has spent quite a bit of time in Michigan as a member of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, fellow prospect Teemu Pulkkinen is making his first visit to the Great Lakes State this week.

“It’s been nice,” the Finnish-born forward said. “I like it here. The weather has been good and the people are very nice.”

Participating in his second development camp, Slovakia native Tomas Jurco echoes his fellow European’s sentiments.

“It’s been lots of fun,” Jurco said. “We’ve got lots of stuff do here after we’re done training and practicing. It’s a beautiful city.”

Detroit’s prospects will square off in an exhibition contest on Tuesday night at Centre Ice Arena, with Team Lidstrom and Team Zetterberg set to go head-to-head beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday’s game will be preceded by a special tribute to Bryan Rufenach, a former Wings’ draft pick and Toledo Walleye/Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman who tragically passed away earlier this year. More information on Wings development camp can be obtained by clicking HERE.

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