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'Toast' is a hit with fans and players

by Andrea Nelson / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – For one special night, Detroit’s sixth man was welcomed onto The Joe’s ice surface.

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Twenty-four hours after hosting Winnipeg, the Joe Louis Arena was transformed into an elegant, fall-themed venue, as the Red Wings held the 14th annual Toast of Hockeytown. Guests had an opportunity to mingle with their favorite players for the evening, enjoying an assortment of food, wine and liquor on the carpeted ice.

“I think the biggest thing for us is we have so many dedicated fans and this gives us a chance to see them away from the rink,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “It’s a good fundraiser so we can meet all the people that are actually giving us jobs and they’re the people that follow us. They’re actually, I think, the sixth player on the ice sometimes because they’re so great in the stands, so it’s pretty cool to give back to them because they give us so much.”

Hockeytown fans enjoyed the event just as much as their favorite Red Wings, some returning year after year to support the players and the Detroit Red Wings Foundation.

“Just the environment of it,” said Danielle Gregoire, who has attended the event for three years. “I’ve met multiple players at different events before but this one is just fun. You get to have a few drinks, meet a few of your favorite players and they’re all just incredibly nice.”

For others, including center Stephen Weiss, Toast of Hockeytown was a brand new and very enjoyable experience.

“For me, this is my first time, so I think anytime you can come out and do some stuff for charity and for the fans, we don’t get a chance to do that a lot,” Weiss said. “It means a lot to the guys who participate in that and like I said, this is my first time so I’m just taking it all in. It’s a beautiful setup, I just have to cruise around and see all the stations.”

Toast of Hockeytown featured over 80 wines, specialty tequilas and vodkas, and food stations that showcased sushi, beef short rib tacos, ravioli, bruschetta and much more. Iridescence, Melting Pot of Troy, Just Baked, Olympia Entertainment and Tim Hortons Café of Troy were just a few of the restaurants that presented their finest spreads at the event.

Beyond the food and drink, lights dangled overhead, illuminating the arena that has celebrated numerous Red Wings legends. The event allowed guests to enjoy the unique perspective from the arena’s ice, while getting exclusive opportunities to sit in the penalty box and walk through the team’s locker room.

“We’ve always wanted to do it and it just worked out that this year that we could attend so here we are,” said Kelly Seaver, who drove from Grand Haven, Mich., to attend Wednesday’s event. “It’s overwhelming right now there’s so much going on, but it’s very nice.”

As local band Persuasion filled The Joe with its music, guests also mingled around the silent auction and puck draw, awaiting the premier event of the night: the live auction. The silent auction featured over 70 items, and guests could also purchase an autographed puck to be entered into a drawing, with the grand prize winner receiving a 20-person suite to a 2014-15 Red Wings preseason game.

The five-item live auction raised over $27,000 for the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, featuring the ultimate trip to a road game on Red Bird III and a once-in-a-lifetime celebration with Nicklas Lidstrom, which included a meet and greet, an autographed stick and skates and two tickets to Lidstrom Night on March 6.

Taste of Hockeytown was a special evening for all those who attended, a great event for an even greater cause.

“This is definitely different than what you see, when you see us being on the ice and obviously competing against each other or whatever this is definitely something different to do,” defenseman Jakub Kindl said. “You can hang out here, have a glass of wine and meet new people. You know it’s a good experience so once a year we don’t mind doing it. We do it for the people who come here and watch us not just to play, so this is fun, a fun event for sure.”

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