DETROIT - Just two nights after clinching their 23rd straight playoff appearance, the Red Wings took the ice for their final regular-season contest before an energized crowd at Joe Louis Arena.
Despite the 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, it was a memorable evening for everyone in attendance, as the Wings hosted their annual “Fan Appreciation Night” to thank Hockeytown fans for their continued and unparalleled support throughout the season.
“I’ve always felt like ever since I got here that we have the best fans in the league,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall. “Without our fans, we wouldn’t be much. And their support this year especially, we have had our ups and downs with all the injuries with all the injuries and things like that.
“It’s been great to feel the support from the fans whether that’s here at the game, people at home watching, if you go around town people are saying positive things. It means a lot and of course we appreciate them very much because we wouldn’t be much without them.”
Kronwall’s thoughts were echoed by every player in Detroit’s dressing room, including Gustav Nyquist.
“They’re always great here,” Nyquist said. “Every game I’ve played in this building has been great, it’s been a great atmosphere and you know we’re real lucky to have fans like this to support us no matter what and no matter how we’ve played. They showed that this year. We had a little bit of a losing streak at home I think earlier in the season, we’ve gotten better at home so it’s nice to see the crowd really sticking up for us.”
To celebrate the evening, the organization gave away hundreds of prizes to fans attending the game and following both the exclusive Fox Sports Detroit broadcast and Detroit’s social media channels. The giveaways included two 10-game plans, a preseason suite night, penalty box visits, Zamboni rides and a tour of the Fox Sports Detroit Call Sam Studio and broadcast truck during the upcoming 2014-15 season. Additional prizes such as a 60-inch television, an Xbox 360 gaming system, complete 2013-14 bobblehead sets and autographed copies of the limited-edition book “Five: A Salute to Nicklas Lidstrom.”
Along with the giveaways, 23 lucky fans were selected to take part in a post-game ceremony on the ice to receive a signed, game-used stick as well as a photo with that player.
“That was great, another chance to meet some of our season ticket holders and interact with them, take some pictures and have a brief chat with him,” Kronwall said. “Their support is very important for us.”
The game concluded a whirlwind season in which the Wings clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 23rd straight season despite enduring an abundance of injuries, dressed 37 different players over the course of the year, and watched several members of the Grand Rapids Griffins Calder Cup championship team become successful in the NHL.
“I mean right now we’re having a lot of fun, there’s a lot of enthusiasm in the locker room, and I think with the young combined with the veterans we have we’re very motivated to achieve success,” said Riley Sheahan. “We’re coming to the rink every day and we’re looking to win I guess and we’re going to have some fun with it.”
And it’s not over yet. The Wings will conclude their regular season on Sunday in St. Louis before beginning their quest for the Stanley Cup.
“It’s great, it’s starting to come down to the playoffs here and this is when the fun times start,” Nyquist said. “They (fans) are going to be a real support for us to have in the playoffs for sure. Every playoff game I’ve played in this building, it’s been insane. The crowd’s really been jumping so it gives your team a boost for sure.”
In their home finale, the Wings fell behind by two goals to the Hurricanes in the first period, allowing both Elias Lindholm and Jiri Tlusty to score. Riley Sheahan cut the visiting team’s lead in half early in the third, though, earning his eighth goal of the season on a power play.
But the lead was too much to overcome, and the Wings gave Carolina it first regular-season victory in Detroit. The Wings are 16-0-1 (W-L-T) at home vs. the Carolina/Hartford franchise during the regular season since the Whalers won in Detroit 3-0 on Nov. 14, 1989.
“It’s not frustrating, it looks like we played well today and had lots of chances,” center Pavel Datsyuk said of losing the team’s final home game. “Of course, we need to score. We need to work on it. We have one more game and a few practice, maybe we work on it because every chance counts in the playoffs.”