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Wings Toast Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Less than a day after they pummeled the Colorado Avalanche on the ice at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings were decked out in their finest haberdashery and back on a playing surface that was transformed into the most elegant autumn harvest scene that you could ever imagine.


And for Rod and Cheryl Kelley of Flushing, Michigan, the chance to meet their favorite players at the 12th annual Toast of Hockeytown, presented by Oakwood Healthcare, was virtually indescribable.

“I come to quite a few games,” Rod said. “Two years ago my friend took me up to training camp. It was the first time I’d ever been, and it was so much fun. … But this, this has just been great!”

The Kelleys attended Wednesday’s event courtesy of their daughter, who gave her father any early birthday present.

“His birthday isn’t until January,” said Cheryl as she and her husband toured the Wings’ dressing room. “But she knew that he would be thrilled because life around our house stops when the Red Wings are playing.”

The sold-out wine-tasting event raised money for the Detroit Red Wings Foundation. It featured 70 different wines from some of the world’s best wineries in Europe and the U.S., including Michigan-based wines from Chateau Grand Traverse and Black Star Farms. For the fine wine connoisseurs, Wednesday’s event had everything from chardonnays to cabernet sauvignons. There was even a table that featured different selections of premium champagnes from Veuve Clicquot, an award-winning winery in France.

“I really like the cabernet, the reds,” said Wings defenseman Jakub Kindl. “I’m trying to cut the beer off and going with the wine. I wish (Todd) Bertuzzi were here because I know he loves wine.”

Guests also dined on a smorgasbord of culinary delights, which included coconut salmon with a peanut sauce, cold lobster avocado salad, Greek pasta salad, lobster cobbler hors d’oeuvre, sage-crushed turkey breast, shrimp cocktail with snow crab claws, slow roasted pepper-crusted tenderloin, and much more.

The kitchen inside Joe Louis Arena was bustling all day as Director of Hospitality Michael Berend and his staff prepared enough cuisine to feed 550 hunger guests. But unlike a usual Red Wings’ game night, the staff had the added pressure of getting hot food to the four corners of the ice rink.

“The hardest challenge is getting it all brought out to the floor and setup, because this is so non-traditional,” executive chef John Borso said. “We have the adversity of executing food stations on both ends of the ice with a very large crowd. So we have to setup a satellite kitchen on the other end of the arena. But still, events like this are fun and challenging and interesting too, because we get to test out abilities on what we can come up with from an execution standpoint.”

Persuasion, a local nine-piece cover band, played hits from Earth, Wind & Fire to The Black-Eyed Peas. And two stunning ice sculptures featuring the winged wheel logo were prominently displayed on both ends of the floor. Derek Maxfield, an ice-carver from Grand Rapids-based Ice Sculptures Ltd., said each piece was 3 ½ feet tall, weighed approximately 150-pounds, and took six hours to create.

“Every day is a blast,” Maxfield said. “I’m somewhere different every day, and today, I’m on the floor at The Joe!”

While many of the guests nibbled on delectable foods, sipping on reds and whites, and mingling with the players, others were temped by the 55-items that made up the silent auction. The eclectic auction featured things from a signed collector’s football signed by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a signed baseball bat from Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and a slew of signed hockey jerseys from Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to an array of other NHL stars like Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Paul Statsny. Also in the silent auction was an original painting by former Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov.

The evening was capped off by a live auction that featured five phenomenal items, including a trip for two to a Wings’ road game to Chicago on Red Bird III. The trip raised $20,000 as two guests each bid $10,000.

Guests also had the opportunity to purchase authographed pucks for a $50 donation. And one lucky guest won the grand prize – dinner with general manager Ken Holland and former Wings greats Chris Chelios and Kris Draper.

The Wings’ players had just as much fun as the fans Wednesday.

“I think it’s cool. It’s a little different and we can chill,” Kindl said. “You get a few glasses of wine and hang out with the people. I think that it’s cool. Last year was the first year that I’ve attended and I liked it then, too.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill
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