DETROIT – The sixth annual MI Wings Community Tour took place this week as players made several stops throughout the state of Michigan meeting with elementary students, hospital patients, firefighters and members of the National Guard.
On Tuesday, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary visited the Detroit Fire Department, Ladder 8, Engine 27, where they met with firefighters and signed autographs for the crew. Members of the firehouse instructed the players how to put on firefighter equipment in addition to training them on how to extinguish a controlled fire and operate a fire hose.
“No,” Zetterberg said when asked if he could make it as a firefighter. “Not a chance.”
Eugene Gunnery, firefighter at Ladder 8, came to the firehouse on his off day for the event.
“It’s surreal,” Gunnery said. “We watch every game here (at the firehouse) and it’s definitely an exhilarating experience. I never thought these guys would be sitting here.”
While the boys were busy at the firehouse, Jonathan Ericsson, Darren Helm, Niklas Kronwall and Drew Miller were on the city’s west side at the Motor City Java & Tea House.
The group worked at the Veteran’s Village just two and a half blocks away from the teahouse where they worked with residents from the area, tearing down walls, unpacking furniture, spreading mulch and cutting grass around the property.
The day concluded with a visit to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where Pavel Datsyuk, Jonas Gustavsson, Jimmy Howard, Kyle Quincey and Stephen Weiss met with patients in the hospital playroom.
On Wednesday, the event continued when Joakim Andersson, Luke Glendening, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Brendan Smith visited the Covenant HealthCare Center in Saginaw. The players visited with pediatric patients and went door-to-door meeting with adult oncology patients.
The group made one more stop at Franklin Elementary School in Cadillac where they were welcomed by a school assembly.
“It’s just as fun for us to answer some of the questions they had for us,” Nyquist said. “They’re big fans and it’s fun to put a smile on their face. We had a lot of fun today.”
The tour reached the state capitol as Justin Abdelkader, Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Jurco, Brian Lashoff, Jakub Kindl and Tomas Tatar visited the Michigan National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing.
“It’s great for us because we have pretty cool jobs and we have a lot of fans but what these people do is pretty incredible,” DeKeyser said. “They were thanking us for being here, but I was kind of thinking ‘why are you thanking me?’ I got a chance to thank some of them which was really nice.”
Players posed for pictures with service men and women and signed autographs before heading to Grand Rapids where they volunteered at the Kid’s Food Basket. Players helped package meals for the Supper program after meeting with staff and presenting them with a custom team jersey.
Abdelkader added: “These kinds of things are great things for us to get out in the public and get out to these places…it’s things that are so important and in the whole perspective of everything we do, this is just as important. We really enjoy these community tours.”
In all, 23 Red Wings players made seven stops from the metro Detroit area and Ann Arbor to Cadillac and Grand Rapids meeting with military members, firefighters, children and hospital patients.