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Wings mingled with fans at unique event

by Craig Peterson / Detroit Red Wings
Tomas Tatar and the rest of the Red Wings players and coaches spent the evening mingling with fans at the 15th annual Toast of Hockeytown. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT — Red Wings players, coaches and fans rubbed elbows on the red carpet on the Joe Louis Arena ice Monday for the 15th annual Toast of Hockeytown.

The exclusive event gave fans the unique opportunity to mingle with the Wings all while enjoying live entertainment, delectable foods, drinks and desserts on the covered ice surface.

With the band Persuasion providing the evening’s entertainment, the dimly lit arena was decorated with string lights and candles on cloth tabletops. Fans could bid on unique silent auction items from authentic player memorabilia and autographed items while conversing with players and pausing for photo opportunities.

“I think they set it up very well with everything in the middle and having everyone mingle around and kind of talk and chat about the season,” defenseman Brendan Smith said. “I think it’s been very good how they set this up the last few years.”

Food and drinks were provided by some of the top local hot spots in the Detroit area like Andiamo, Melting Pot of Troy, Valentine Distilling Company and Founders Brewing Company among others. The occasion was a chance for fans like James Mlejnek, from Saginaw, Mich., to make a contribution and enjoy a night out with friends.

“It’s an opportunity to be able to support the Ilitch charities and the Detroit Red Wings Foundation to give back to the community of Detroit,” Mlejnek said. “Obviously, all these guys on the team do their part with the charities and this is my opportunity to be able to give back monetary-wise, I enjoy it.”

Having attended the event before, Mlejnek said it would be very hard to top his experience from last year because it was so memorable. And like last year, he and his friends participated in the Puck Draw, one of the night’s events in which a $50 donation got Mlejnek a gift-wrapped hockey puck with a 1-in-5 chance of winning a prize from the Puck Draw table.

“It’s pretty neat, this is our second year coming,” he said. “I came down with a couple of my friends. We enjoyed the pucks last year and the chance to find out who had an autographed puck and who didn’t. It was a unique experience and we enjoyed doing it and that was the first stop we all said we were gonna make on our way back down here.”

The main attraction aside from the players were the silent and live auctions that featured autographed canvas photos of players like Niklas Kronwall and gift baskets with some of Jimmy Howard’s favorite things as well as a once-in-a-lifetime sports experience consisting of a trip with the Wings on Red Bird III.

“I think that has created success for the Red Wings for a long time is bringing in the fans,” Smith said. “It’s been huge for us. That’s why it is called Hockeytown. It’s been good. I think it’s a great thing that the organization does is continue to bring these fans around and make them feel part of our team and they are. They’re a big part of everything and it’s cool that we can give back to them like this.”

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