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Wings' players thank Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard spent part of Tuesday morning reading to a kindergarten class as part of the team's Hockeytown Thanks community initiative. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – As the father of two boys under 3 years old, goalie Jimmy Howard was a perfect choice to represent the Red Wings in front of 22 very attentive kindergarten students Tuesday morning.

Howard was one of five Red Wings who descended on Lincoln King Academy of Cornerstone Schools where they read to kindergartners and first-grade students as part of the team’s third annual Hockeytown Thanks campaign.

The players, along with representatives from Flagstar Bank, were assigned a classroom where they read the “ABC’s of Detroit Red Wings Hockey” to the students, and afterwards, the players answered questions from the inquisitive groups.

“The questions are definitely the best with what they come up with and what they’re thinking, what’s going through their minds,” Howard said. “I get the same exact questions when I’m at home, so I was well prepared for today.”

The exchanges with the Red Wings’ goalie and the curious youngsters were delightful and predictably innocent. At one point, Howard was asked what it felt like to get hit with a puck. “It hurts,” he said with a laugh. “I wish I could wear more padding.”

Forwards Justin Abdelkader and Luke Glendening, and defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Brendan Smith were also at the charter school, which used to be the home of St. Martin De Porres, a Catholic high school on the city’s west side that closed in 2005.

Four of the team's corporate partners were asked to select a charity or community initiative to involve the Red Wings’ players this year. Flagstar Bank shares a strong commitment to the many Michigan communities it serves and chose the inter-city school offers curriculum for pre-K through high school students.

Stacie Robinson is an assistant vice president and branch manager at Flagstar, and among the many bank’s employees – including executive management and branch staff – who graciously volunteer their time and talent to numerous community groups and organizations.

Robinson enjoyed spending time with Ms. Hawkins’ kindergarteners and Howard, whom she shared reading duties.

“It was awesome. I love children,” she said. “I do a lot of the reading on behalf of Flagstar financial literacy, and that group was so priceless because they’re so innocent. I love the story because it gave a true picture of what hockey is on all levels, and it was great to be working with Mr. Howard as well.”

Tuesday’s event at Cornerstone fits perfectly into one of Flagstar’s core values: be good stewards of the community.

“That’s one of our priorities,” Robinson said. “Financial literacy is definitely a passion of mine so anytime I have the opportunity to come out I do. I plan on coming back here and doing some actual financial literacy for the older kids. We do this with all of the communities that we’re located in. We touch on budget, credit, savings, identity theft, definitely something that our children need to have going into teenage years and into adulthood.”

The Red Wings also donated a full set of floor hockey equipment to the Cornerstone children so they may learn how to play the game during gym class.

“It was a good opportunity for the children to meet someone who can explain the game to them,” Ms. Hawkins said. “It was a really good life experience for them.”

Three other groups of players volunteered their time across metro Detroit Tuesday, working alongside corporate partners – Detroit Medical Center, Allstate Insurance and International Bancard – at charitable organizations of the partners’ choosing.

Captain Henrik Zetterberg, along with center Stephen Weiss and defenseman Kyle Quincey, visited Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit where they served breakfast alongside members of the Detroit Medical Center.

Capuchin Soup Kitchen tends to people’s basic needs, while striving to stimulate minds, nourish spirits, and working to understand root causes for social injustice.

Along with volunteers from Allstate Insurance, defensemen Niklas Kronwall and Brian Lashoff, and forwards Riley Sheahan and Gustav Nyquist visited Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit shelter that helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women ages 15-21. There the players and volunteers organized clothing, renovated bedrooms and painted the activity room.

The final stop was in the afternoon when forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary, Tomas Tatar and goalie Jonas Gustavsson stopped by The Bottomless Toy Chest in suburban Troy, Mich.

This year, the non-profit organization estimates it will deliver over 30,000 toys and activities to pediatric cancer patients in Michigan hospitals.

Accompanied by International Bancard employees, the five players wrap gifts, and even presented some to several children on site, who are currently battling cancer.

“It’s a good experience for us,” Zetterberg said of Tuesday’s events. “I think it’s important for us to give back to the community. They give us so much and it’s good for us to have a chance to give back.”

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