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White's Warriors

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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DETROIT – He’s not exactly sure how the idea originated.

However, the instant that Ian White heard about a Calgary-based battalion of Canadian troops heading to the Middle East last year, he immediately wanted to thank them in some way.

“I don’t think that we thank the military enough for their sacrifices,” said White, who is in his first season with the Red Wings. “Every day, they are the ones fighting for our freedom, and allowing us to live this gifted life that we live. So, the least that I can do is to bring them out for a couple of hours of fun.”

Last season, though he only played 16 games for the Flames, White established White’s Heroes, and purchased two tickets for Canadian Forces to each home game throughout the season.

Since joining the Wings, the veteran defenseman, who is in his seventh NHL season, created White’s Warriors to recognize both U.S. and Canadian military personnel. White has purchased two tickets to every Wings regular-season home game at Joe Louis Arena during the 2011-12 season. And as part of his commitment White also meets his military guests after the game.

“I started in Calgary last year. I really don’t remember how it came about, but I was thinking at the start of the season when I was hearing about all of these guys going over there, and following the war. I just thought that this was an important thing to do.”

 As White’s guest, the invitation includes:
  • Two game tickets in Section 126 for one military member and their one guest
  • Two meal vouchers good for a pizza slice or hot dog and a small soft drink
  • Two Red Wings gift bags, which include an 8x10 photo of White that he signs that night after the game
  • And a brief meet-and-greet with White
Eight-year-old Lauren Pitzen got to playfully ask coach Mike Babcock questions about the Wings' win. (Photo by Dave Reginek)
And if the recent experience of one former Marine and his family is any indication, then White’s Warriors will be a wildly successful program this season.

Former U.S. Marine Eric Pitzen and his wife, Heather, and eight-year-old daughter Lauren, attended the Oct. 13 game as White’s guests. They watched a great game – a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks – and later met with White for 15 minutes outside of the Wings’ locker room.

Pitzen served in the Marine Corps for four years, from 1992-96, and spent a seven-month tour of duty in famine-stricken Somalia. He has seen the worst of mankind. But the 38-year-old married father of one, who works at a Ford dealership in Toledo, Ohio, credits the Marines for teaching him valuable live lessons.

“Personally, it was a lot of self-discipline and camaraderie, the brotherhood,” he said. “I know it sounds kind of cheesy and corny, but a Marine will share their last cigarette or last drop of water with somebody, because he is your brother Marine. The selflessness of some of the people that I served with was just amazing.”

He also praised White for his benevolence.

“I think it’s great,” Pitzen said. “I’ve been a Red Wings’ fan for 30-plus years now. And I’ve been fortunate enough to come up to The Joe quite often. To a person, the Red Wings’ organization – in any dealings that I’ve ever had with them – has been nothing but class from top to bottom. I think it’s great when somebody who obviously has a certain celebrity stature takes the time to do something like this to give back; it says a lot about their individual character. And we appreciate it.”

That appreciation runs both ways, White said.

Whether it's in the realm of sports or in any other aspect of our society today – like any other day – it provides the chance to reflect upon those who gave their lives for our freedom and those who continue to put themselves in harm’s way.

Each week Don Cherry concludes “Coach’s Corner” by saluting the Canadian Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice. White agreed that more should be done in terms of thanking these brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for us each and every day.

“I think it’s a great part of the segment,” said White, referring to Cherry’s weekly acknowledgements on ‘Hockey Night in Canada’. “These people don’t get enough credit a lot of the time. I think people take them for granted and what they’re doing for our freedoms for both countries and for democracy in the world.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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