TROY, Mich. – As Henrik Zetterberg walked up to Hockeytown Authentics Monday afternoon, there was already a line of fans wrapped around the building waiting for their chance to visit with the Red Wings’ star center.
By donating smoke detectors or making a monetary contribution, fans got to meet Zetterberg and snag an autograph from the 30-year-old Swedish-born strar as part of the Red Wings’ 11th annual Smoke Detector Collection.
The event, which is presented by Comerica, has helped local fire departments distribute over 14,500 smoke detectors since its inception in 2001.
“It’s a pretty neat thing,” Zetterberg said. “It’s for a great cause, not every home has smoke detectors and it could really be a life saver. When the Red Wings approached me to see if I wanted to be involved in all this I said ‘yes’ right away.”
Not only did Zetterberg bring out hundreds of fans for the fundraiser, he will also match whatever dollar amount is collected by the Red Wings during the span of the program. In addition to Monday’s event, there will be two in-game collections this week – Friday (vs. Toronto) and Sunday (vs. Pittsburgh) fans that bring a smoke detector with batteries or make a $5 donation at the game will be entered to win autographed Zetterberg memorabilia.
Considering smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in fire in half, City of Troy Fire Department Lieutenant Chuck Riesterer could not understate the importance of the initiative.
“This is huge,” Riesterer said. “You get the name draw from the Red Wings to get people to come in, and then we get the benefit of smoke alarms. There really is no other program for us to have to draw the people to bring the smoke alarms in. Now we can redistribute these smoke alarms to people who need them.”
The event didn’t just benefit nearby fire departments – diehard Red Wings’ fans came out in droves to see one of the most talented players in the NHL.
“I was so excited that when my Dad told me he was coming out here I think I started crying,” Shelby Moss of Troy explained. “I grew up with the Red Wings. Zetterberg is one of my favorite players. I go to the games just for him.”
A number of Wings’ fans started lining up nearly three hours before the event. Jim Held of Clinton Township, Mich., spent all day making sure he’d be the first through the doors of Hockeytown Authentics Monday afternoon.
“I got up this morning and got first in line for the wristband (for Zetterberg’s signature), and then I got here at two o’clock and got first in line for the autograph,” he said. “So yes, I am a bit of a Red Wing fanatic.”
As Zetterberg signed everything from hockey sticks to glossy photos, the most interesting piece of memorabilia that came through the doors on Monday may have been Canton, Mich.-native Chris Butzlaff’s No. 24 Bob Probert jersey.
Butzlaff has been collecting the signatures for two decades, and with nearly 40 current and former Wings autographs on the sweater, he was ecstatic to add Zetterberg’s signature to the well-inked jersey.
“I was really excited when I got the email about this,” he said. “I dropped everything I was doing and rushed on out here because I don’t see him signing too often and he’s terrific. He’s my girlfriend’s favorite player and she couldn’t come here today so of course I have to get it and rub it in her face a little bit.”
With a chance to meet some of his biggest fans – and raise money for a good cause – Zetterberg said he was more than happy to take the time to come out for the event.
“It is fun to be out here,” Zetterberg said. “Usually we only see the fans from the rink. This is a good opportunity to have a little chat with them and hear their expectations for the season.”