DETROIT — The Red Wings had a few extra spectators at practice on Tuesday, courtesy of Henrik Zetterberg.
The Wings’ captain played host to fire department representatives from the Detroit area as they watched the team’s practice at Joe Louis Arena. Later, Zetterberg met with members from 10 different departments, posed for photos with them at center ice and signed autographs before handing out 2,700 smoke detectors that will be donated and installed in low-income homes throughout metro Detroit.
“I’ve only seen it from the nosebleeds so it was just a thrill to be able to be on the ice and to just take in the whole experience and watch the coach out there at practice,” said Greg Thomas, inspector of the city of Livonia Fire Department. “You kind of always wondered at practice how they work and boy, they work hard.”
Thomas was one of many representatives from the Clinton Township, Detroit, Flint, Livonia, Macomb Township, Port Huron, Saginaw, Southfield, St. Clair Shores and Taylor fire departments on-hand to collect and distribute the smoke detectors.
The event began in 2001 in memory of former Red Wings player Brendan Shanahan’s father, who was a firefighter. Zetterberg inherited the project during the 2005-06 season and has continued it ever since. He said it is a cause that is special to him and a continued effort in helping out local departments is important.
“Step by step, we try to make this bigger and hopefully keep doing this and save some lives,” Zetterberg said. “It’s been a few years now. You get more and more involved in it. Having a chance to see the firefighters and see what they do, you appreciate it even more.”
Last month, Zetterberg visited the Detroit Fire Department with teammates Johan Franzen and Daniel Cleary. The trio took a tour of the department, put on firefighter gear and received hands-on lessons on how to use a fire hose and fire extinguisher. Being so close to the project and meeting the people on the front lines helps put a face to the cause for Zetterberg.
“We tried a little bit of what they’re doing. It is amazing. It’s tough, hard work. For us to be able to help them out it means a lot,” he said. “You recognize them and you see them once in a while out in town too. It’s nice to talk to them and create a relationship.”
Being the 13th annual Smoke Detector Collection presented by Comerica Bank, The Wings have now distributed more than 28,000 smoke detectors to local fire departments and agencies.
Zetterberg’s community involvement is a family function of sorts as his wife, Emma, has been an integral part of the Zetterberg Foundation as president and founder.
"It's very important to him and his wife that they're involved and they give back to the city of Detroit,” said Stephan Huber, director of the Zetterberg Foundation. “They consider this now to be their primary home since they spend most of their time here. It's been very important to them both to be giving back to the city.”