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Wings' Larkin adds Free Press Sports Awards to busy summer schedule

Detroit center is fully recovered after injury at world championships

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin definitely does not believe in taking it easy during the offseason.

Just a few weeks after the regular season ended, Larkin joined coach Jeff Blashill, Luke Glendening, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Filip Hronek as Wings participating in the IIHF Men's World Championships in Slovakia.

Blashill coached Larkin and Glendening on Team USA, while Mantha and Bertuzzi suited up for Team Canada and Hronek played for Team Czech Republic.

Larkin's tournament ended prematurely as he was hit by a puck in a sensitive area and he wasn't able to play after that.

Fortunately, Larkin said he is fine now.

"I'm going to be OK," Larkin said. "It was a lot of pain and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. But I'm all good and back in the gym feeling good."

Now that Larkin is back in Michigan, he is getting ready for his annual Larkin Hockey School, which takes place June 20-28 at Lakeland Ice Arena in his hometown of Waterford, Mich.

Although there are no more spots available for the camp that he runs with his brother, Colin, and cousins, Adam and Ryan, Larkin says they may have a few surprises for the campers.

"We're excited about it, it's coming up pretty quick and we're all geared up," Larkin said. "We might have some special guests, guys coming to town, I maybe recruited a couple of guys from the world championships, they're U.S. hockey stars. I don't want to make it official yet but there's talk and we're excited. We love doing it and nine days of fun for us as well."

This year, Larkin has added another event to his busy summer schedule, serving as guest speaker for the Detroit Free Press Sports Awards, which was held Thursday at The Fillmore in downtown Detroit.

"It ties together with my Michigan roots and my high school roots as well, playing high school golf and high school soccer, so I thought it'd be pretty cool to come and do this for myself and for the high school athletes," Larkin said.

Because Larkin played for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, he did not have the traditional high school experience that many of the high school athletes had.

But he did have a message for all the nominees and award winners at the Free Press Sports Awards.

"I did play high school hockey in the spring and summer with my brother," Larkin said. "I think if I do talk to other kids here, I would probably reference my brother, who played three years at Waterford Mott varsity hockey. You don't see very many kids that move on from high school hockey into the pro ranks, like he has. I think he's done it through hard work and he's been my biggest role model. Maybe I could just tell them there's examples all over the state and we're lucky to be from Michigan where there's great sports and great coaches and great facilities for all of us. Take advantage of it and never give up."

Larkin congratulated each winner and posed for photos with them backstage.

Hartland's Joey Larson won the award for hockey player of the year and was excited to meet Larkin.

Tweet from @Dwakiji: #RedWings Dylan Larkin poses for a photo with Hartland���s Joey Larson, #FreepSportsAwards Hockey Player of the Year.

"It's awesome, I definitely look up to him watching him on TV and in person," Larson said. "That's what I want to be someday is a pro hockey player so to see him here and watching him through the years is amazing and to get an award from him is pretty special."

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep's Madeline Chinn won the award for volleyball player of the year and in her heels stood a bit taller than Larkin.

Tweet from @hssportsawards: Volleyball Player of the Year, Madeline Chinn! 🏐 Good luck at Purdue! @MaddyChinn @PurdueVB #FreepSportsAwards

"I'm really big into it and I think it's so awesome that he is here," Chinn said. "I was here last year and each year, I look forward to the speakers. They're huge role models for us athletes, just watching their hard work and try to model it, they're really big inspirations in my life.

"In any aspect in life, you relate to someone by their age and you see them go through that you can do it as well. Seeing that through him and representing our hometown is huge and I'm a big fan."

Larkin met John Herrington, the longtime football coach at Farmington Hills Harrison who was accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award, and discovered the two shared a hometown.

Larkin also participated in a Q&A session midway through the program, answering questions from Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.

Because Larkin is a local kid, like many of the athletes in attendance, he looked up to the Detroit sports stars as he was growing up.

"Back when the Pistons won in '04, I loved Chauncey Billups, I was a huge Magglio Ordonez fan when he hit that walk-off home run," Larkin told Albom on stage. "I was a huge Henrik Zetterberg fan and still to this day, I'm lucky enough to say that I got to play with one of my idols. When I'm looking back on my career when I'm done playing, it's one of the most special things that I think has made me the player and the person that I am today."

Another one of those sports stars is Steve Yzerman, who is now back with the Red Wings as executive vice president and general manager after nine years in Tampa Bay.

Albom asked Larkin about the first time he met Yzerman.

"I was nervous. Still am nervous," Larkin admitted as the crowd laughed. "It was my rookie season and we were playing Tampa Bay in the playoffs and we lost. We were walking down the hall, we had to walk by the Tampa Bay Lightning locker room and he was waiting outside, talking to some of the staff. He stopped me and I was like, am I in trouble? But he just introduced himself and had a couple really kind words and that really stuck with me."

Larkin said he spoke briefly with Yzerman after getting injured at the world championship.

"Not much other than that but definitely the talk between the guys you see at the gym and the guys you talk to, you definitely feel his presence already and it's something we're all really excited about but a little bit nervous too maybe because of who he is and what he means to this city and this organization," Larkin said. "He means business coming back to bring us all to where we want to be, back to being a contender."

Larkin also had high praise for former general manager Ken Holland, who is now the Edmonton Oilers GM.

"What he meant to this organization and what he meant to the guys in the locker room and the support staff and everyone around, he was a guy who, we talk about culture a lot, it's a family in our locker room and I think he's the ringleader of that," Larkin said. "He started that culture for us and I think he deserves a lot of credit in this city for what he did for this team."

Although Larkin is focused on the Red Wings and what he needs to do to help them get back into the playoffs, he still intends to continue to find ways to give back to the metro Detroit community as he did Thursday night at the Free Press Sports Awards.

"I think as a young person, you don't understand your impact and people in need and what a small interaction means to some people," Larkin said. "Everyone should be happy they're here tonight and nominated for an award and representing their schools and their families. That small interaction could make someone's night or week or month and you don't know what people are going through.

"For me, I think trying to take off in my career, it's also important to stay in the moment and give back and have interactions like that because for me, it also makes me feel good and makes me feel like even more so a part of the community."

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