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Wings bond with big guns

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – The Red Wings spent Tuesday’s off-day firing something other than pucks, trading in their hockey sticks for a plethora of firearms.

Ever since Mike Babcock took over as coach in 2005, the Wings’ players and coaching staff have planned a team-building event during the regular-season. Usually the event is planned for a road trip, but with five days between games, this week was a perfect bonding opportunity.
The Red Wings spent a day at a gun range with the FBI's SWAT team in Canton, MI. (Photo courtesy of the FBI)

As special guests of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Wings were treated to an afternoon of target practice at the Canton Police Department’s gun range.

“Yesterday was a real fun day for the guys and they didn’t have to listen to me, and I didn’t have to watch them practice,” joked Babcock. “It’s something to talk about. Guys are in a different environment and you get to laugh at each other and have some fun with each other, and enjoy it.”

Based on the responses in the Wings’ locker room following Wednesday’s hour-long practice, the guys had – pardon the pun – an absolute blast playing with everything in the FBI’s arsenal from Glock 22 handguns to M4 machine guns and a 1928 Thompson sub machine gun.

“It was definitely really cool,” Niklas Kronwall said. “Just the power and how much force is in the guns, how you have to hold it down. … When we were holding those automatic weapons (down), the bullets were going all over the place.”

The Wings spent four hours at the range, which included some classroom instruction, followed by target practice, and other shooting exercises with members of the FBI’s SWAT team.
However, the afternoon wasn’t without its casualties when Jakub Kindl (forehead) and Jiri Hudler (calf) were hit by paintballs shot by friendly-fire. Kindl ducked into the path of a shot fired by assistant coach Bill Peters, and Hudler was struck in the left leg by Danny Cleary.

Sporting a red welt on his left leg, Hudler was quick to finger Cleary as the assailant. “I shot him in Anaheim with rubber bullets (last year), so he got me back,” Hudler said. “But it’s not over.

“(He did it) on purpose. I was holding a shield, he was behind me. He was supposed to be my cover. We cleared – I don't know what you call the setup there – (but) he took a couple of steps back and just shot me in the left calf. Thank God I had jeans on, it was pretty painful. He was really happy about it, too. I think he was crying laughing.”

The afternoon also featured a few shooting competitions with Babcock winning the accuracy test, and Ian White and Tomas Holmstrom winning FBI pins in a speed shooting contest. Each two-man team had to knock over six head plates in the fastest time from 20-feet away. The Holmstrom-White team accomplished the goal in 3.77 seconds.

“Me and Tommy won a six-target, timed competition with handguns, glocks, which weren’t too bad, unless you have spaghetti wrists,” White said. “Those automatic weapons can really get your heart going. I’m not even sure of some of the names of the guns, but those automatic rifles, those will spin you back, for sure.”

Growing up in western Canada, fishing and hunting has always been a huge recreational activity for Babcock. But even then, the type of heavy artillery that they were introduced to Tuesday, made the Wings’ coach a bit uneasy.

“I’m scared of that stuff to be honest with you,” Babcock said. “Even pistols, I’m sacred of pistols. I’m a hunter, and I like shotguns, and I like shooting my rifle and all of that. But I’m also Walter Safety … I’m nervous around that stuff. Those are unbelievable weapons.”

In the past, the Wings have kept their team-building exercises to the mainstream, activities that most of the guys are familiar with. They’ve gone paintball-shooting in Anaheim, curling in Edmonton, and bowling in St. Louis. So for those who’ve not held a ‘real’ gun – let alone fired one – prior to this week, Tuesday was an eye-opener.

“From never having shot a gun to shooting an assault rifle was quite the rush,” Jimmy Howard said. “I mean, the power and the kick that those things have, it’s amazing. And the way those guys have accuracy is remarkable.

“It was a lot of fun, just to see what they have to go through for training, and the way they go through simulations. It was pretty cool to do.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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