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Rink of Dreams

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
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PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Tucked away behind the houses and tree-line streets lives a hockey player’s dream. A fenced-in rink – complete with lights, an electronic scoreboard and a goal horn – allows children in the neighborhood to skate from dawn until dusk.

The backyard set-up even has a log cabin clubhouse lined with lockers, a microwave, and a fireplace to warm-up beside.

Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood and his wife, Jenna, are the proprietors of this suburban hockey paradise.

The rink sits on the tennis court behind the Osgood’s home – a perfect place to build a miniature Joe Louis Arena. And ‘The Shack’, as the Wings’ goalie affectionately calls it, is adorned with hockey collectibles and game-used sticks that would make any Hockeytown aficionado jealous.

Osgood shares his masterpiece with his neighbors. The local children are free to come and go as they please, to the point where it is encouraged by the Osgoods. But last Saturday, one lucky family had the opportunity to become the first ‘outsiders’ to skate in the Osgood’s backyard.

In December, when David Dagenais attended the Toast of Hockeytown, an annual charity fundraiser that benefits the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, he was hoping to return home with perhaps a Red Wings jersey, or a maybe a game-used stick. Instead, he found a way to give his 11-year-old son, Drew, a Christmas present he would never forget.

Dagenais, 54, of Troy, Mich., placed the winning bid for the chance to skate with Osgood on his homemade rink, arguably the crown jewel of the charity event’s auction.

“As a dad, you try to capture the best moments you had as a kid for your kids,” Dagenais said. “But times have changed, it’s real different than it used to be, so to have an opportunity to do that, you grasp that, you seize it, and that’s what we did.”

One of the things Dagenais hoped to share with his son was a passion for the sport he grew up playing. The elder Dagenais playing pick-up games on frozen fields behind his house in Windsor, Ontario. After taking his son to numerous Wings’ games, Dagenais decided it was time to teach his son the game.

“As a kid, that’s what we did,” Dagenais said of his youth. “The kids today, my son’s one, he plays a lot of video games and that, and we do anything we can do to get him out of the house.”

“We actually built a skating rink this year for the first time, before I even knew about this, just thinking that I need to get him out, teach him the game, teach him how to play, and to get some exercise. My son and I, we’ve been out some nights when the moon is bright and the stars are out, and it’s just beautiful. It’s been a great winter for us.”

Dagenais and his wife, Linda, saved the special present for last, and both parents agreed that it ranked high on the list of Drew’s memorable Christmas gifts. The 11-year-old had no problem with clarifying how he felt about the news.

“They said I had two big Christmas presents left,” Drew said. “One of them was a foosball table, and that was amazing. But when they told me about Chris Osgood, that was just the best present … ever.”

As the big day approached, Drew rounded up some of his closest friends to share his trip with. After all, a pick-up game wouldn’t work with only him and Osgood. Four friends were invited, including 11-year-old Riley Maher, who said “everything” went through his mind when he found out he would be attending.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to Chris Osgood’s house, I’m going to skate,’ it was one of the most awesome things I have ever heard,” Maher said. “I couldn’t believe it when he told me. And then I got to go, and it’s just amazing to be here right now.”

Last Saturday, the families made their way to Osgood’s house. The kids suited up alongside Osgood in ‘The Shack’, and stepped out onto the ice with the three-time Stanley Cup champion. After a few minutes of warm-ups, it was time to split into teams and have some fun. In true spirit of an outdoor pick-up game, Osgood showed the kids the quickest way to pick sides – toss everyone’s sticks in a pile, then close your eyes and sort them out.

In between periods, the kids came back to the ‘The Shack’ to warm-up and enjoy pizza, cookies and pop. All the while, they were able to hang out with one of their hockey idols, and it was tough to tell who enjoyed the experience more. When asked what he thought the kids might take away from the day, Osgood joked that they saw he was a real person.

“Maybe that I’m normal? Which I am,” Osgood joked. “Just fun. That’s what it was here. They wanted me to give them instruction and stuff, and I said, ‘You know what, we’re just going to play.’ For me, it reminds me of when I was in Canada, when I was young playing, and that’s what it’s all about it. It doesn’t matter what the score is, we’re just playing and having a good time. We’re eating pizza and drinking pop, probably what they’re not supposed to be doing for a day, so it’s good.”

Days like these were what Osgood had in mind when he began the process of converting the tennis court to a hockey rink.

“I wanted something where the kids would come here, my friends would come and we could hang out,” he said. “But more or less for everybody else, not as much for me. For me, it’s fun just to look outside the window and see all the kids playing. Sometimes there’s 15 kids out here skating and playing around, that’s what makes me happy.”

The atmosphere brought out the kid in everyone, including the parents.

“This is awesome,” David Dagenais said. “When I grow-up, I want to have a rink like this, there’s no question about it.”

Click the button (left) to check out more photos Osgood's Rink of Dreams on the Red Wings Facebook page.

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