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Wings' players excite young fans

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
BAY CITY, Michigan – It’s become just as much a part of the training camp landscape as Traverse City.


Thursday the Red Wings embarked on their annual drive up north, which has turned into a caravan of sorts, since they won the 2008 Stanley Cup.

Two groups of four players each began separate day-long journeys to northern Michigan with stops along the way at hospitals, an elementary school, and even a military base. Organized by the team’s community relations department, and tabbed the ‘MI Wings Community Tour’, eight players provided some excitement and fun for some young patients, starry-eyed students, and U.S. military personnel.

“This is an important part of what we do; to reach out to different communities and do something that’s good outside of the game,” defenseman Brad Stuart said.

The following that the Wings and their players have throughout Michigan and the region is phenomenal. Wherever they go in the community, players are often recognized by fans. But it’s extra special when the players can spend time with their younger fan base, especially the innocent, who are battling childhood diseases.

“We have a pretty big impact on people, even if we don’t realize it,” said Stuart, following a visit to the Pediatric Unit in Flint. “But we have a good chance to do something like this, which is real positive that people will talk about for a long time and feel good about.”

Helm, Kindl, Stuart and Datsyuk visit the Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI.



Stuart was joined on the East Tour with forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, and defenseman Jakub Kindl as they traveled up I-75 through Flint and Bay City.

The West Tour featured U.S.-born players – forwards Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, and goalies Ty Conklin and Jimmy Howard – with stops at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, and the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, home of the U.S. Air Force’s 101st Airlift Wing.

The first stop on the East Tour was a morning visit to Hurley Medical Center in Flint, where some 100 pediatric patients had the rare opportunity to the meet some of their favorite Wings’ players.

In the afternoon, the East Tour moved 50 miles north up I-75 to Kolb Elementary School, where players mingled with approximately 550 young – and very excited – students at a school rally in the gymnasium.
 
“It’s a great experience,” said Kindl, who with his teammates posed for photos and exchanged high-fives with students. “I wish that I could have been growing up like this. … It would have been kind of cool if in my hometown, where I was growing up, that a bunch of NHL players showed up. I definitely would have been cheering as a little kid. It was a great experience, and pretty exciting to see those kids with the smiles on their faces, and they were cheering are names and ‘Go Wings!’ so that was cool.”

Stuart added, “I have a couple of young boys myself, and so I know how excited they can get about things, and to be able to be a part of that was a lot of fun. I’m sure it’s something that they’ll go home and talk about for awhile.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

Author: Bill Roose | DetroitRedWings.com Managing Editor

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