Wings Father & Son Southeast Road Trip

When the Detroit Red Wings headed to the Southeast division to face Atlanta, Florida, and Tampa Bay, the players’ dads or mentors came with them. The coaching and support staff was also allowed to invite a father, male family member, or mentor. They were also able to attend Monday’s game against Pittsburgh before leaving on the southeast trip. Wings owner Mike Ilitch paid for this special trip.

Team players, coaches, and support staff had the opportunity to show what they do on a daily basis with those who helped them make it into the NHL whether it was on the ice or within an organization. These guests were allowed to go everywhere the players did, except out on the ice, whether it was going on a red-eye flight, attending a strategy meeting, getting to the rink early for a pregame skate, or checking into a hotel early in the morning.

On Tuesday, a “Hockey Night in Canada” crew came to talk with players and fathers while taping multiple interviews for its Hockey Day family themed telecast in January.

For head coach Mike Babcock, it was an opportunity to get to learn something about the player from a father or mentor that he wouldn’t have known otherwise.

“I had a talk with Steve Yzerman’s dad,” Babcock said. “He walked me through moving from Western Canada to Ottawa. He walked me through minor hockey for Steve, him going to Peterborough and him getting drafted by the Red Wings. And the first (Stanley) Cup. How do you get that? Steve ain’t going to tell me that. It was phenomenal for me to listen to that.” 

Babcock has also enjoyed the time spent with his own father who was able to see what it’s like as a coach of an original six teem and what a typical week is like as head coach. While Babcock does spend his summers with his dad, he doesn’t have much time for one-on-one talks.

“I have a young family and there’s people humming around,” he said. “We’re at the lake in the summer. I’m driving the boat or racing somewhere with my kids. You might have a beer for five minutes, but you’re not spending time like this.” 

His dad, Mike Sr., thoroughly enjoyed his experience saying that it was unbelievable. “Just being able to be around your son and watch him work, I think, is worth its weight in gold,” he said. Center Kris Draper’s father, Mike Draper, was warned about life as a professional hockey player.

“It’s a real strenuous schedule when you’re playing three games on the road,” said Mike Draper. “I was told by Kris before I came down, ‘This is the way it is.’ They have a job to do. They have timelines, they have to be on the ice at a certain time or at the airport after the game.” 

“I was told to come back with seven out of eight points,” Mike Draper said. “That’s not attainable right now, but a big win against a great Tampa Bay team would, I’m sure, make this trip a huge success.”

Sammy Schneider, Mathieu Schneider’s dad, was skeptical of the trip at first. “How’s this going to work, being in locker rooms and everything,” Sammy Schneider said he wondered. “I don’t know if I belong there. But it’s really worked out well. Of course, if you win some games, that’s frosting on the cake.”

Chris Chelios’ dad was unable to attend the game because of his diabetes. For that reason, Chelios had his son Jake come on the trip. Jake plays hockey on the same team as the Wings assistant general manager’s son, Trevor. Jake was able to participate in some pregame skates according to Fox Sports Net during an intermission in tonight’s game.

Rookie Jimmy Howard was excited before starting in goal when the Wings took on the Atlanta Thrashers. It was the first time his dad, Jim Howard, was able to watch Jimmy play in the NHL from the stands.

“This is a dream come true, to be with organization and travel with him for a week and see what he goes through,” Jim Howard said. “He’s worked hard all his life, been at the right place at the right time at times, and all the hard work has paid off.” 

Said Jimmy Howard of having his father in the arena: “It’s just something special. We’ll remember it. He’s excited, and I’m happy we could do this for him.”

Gretzky relinquishes coaching duties indefinitely

Wayne Gretzky, Phoenix Coyotes head coach, has announced that he is relinquishing his head coaching duties indefinitely due to family reasons. He is heading to Ontario, Canada to be with his mother, Phyllis, who is currently battling lung cancer. Associate coach Rick Tocchet will step up as interim head coach until Gretzky returns.

“We respect and support Wayne’s decision,” said Coyotes General Manager Michael Barnett. “Family has always come first to the Gretzky’s, as it should. The thoughts and prayers of the Phoenix Coyotes organization, and most surely, those of the entire hockey world, are with Wayne and the Gretzky family at this most difficult time.” 

12/16 Notes

I finished my last final exam this morning and I am officially on winter break, finally! So updates will now resume as normal. I’m sorry for the pause in updates over the past two weeks. Now onto the rest of the entry, which will hopefully help make up for my exam hiatus…

  • Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is at it again. Previously, all Caps season ticket holders received a free replica jersey and blogger Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion was invited to attend a Caps game with Leonsis. PJ at Sharkspage recently conducted an interview with the owner by telephone. You can read what he had to say to PJ here.
  • My buddies at On the Wings kept the blogosphere up to date on the Wings during my exam hiatus. You can read about Jiri Fischer’s press conference, which I missed due to taking an exam. They also have you covered on the Wings recent games against the Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • Across the hockey blogosphere, one can find numerous bloggers picks for Team Canada’s squad in the upcoming 2006 Winter Olympics. Among them are The Puck Stops Here, Battle of Alberta, and James Mirtle. The Hockey News have their own picks for the roster along with news that the WJC Canada roster has been set.
  • Speaking of the World Junior Championships, three Michigan Wolverines will be playing for the US and another for Canada. Freshmen Jack Johnson and Mark Mitera along with sophomore Kevin Porter will be playing in Vancouver for the WJC instead of playing with the rest of the Michigan team at the annual Great Lakes Invitational (GLI). Freshman forward Andrew Cogliano will be the sole Wolverine to represent Canada in the tournament. Only four collegiate athletes will play for Canada in the WJC, an increase from recent years.
  • The Michigan Wolverines swept Nebraska last weekend with 4-2 and 7-3 wins. Wondering how a former Wolverine is doing in the NHL or AHL? Check out this site. The Blog That Yost Built has some thoughts on the Wolverines’ recent games along with the WJC player invitations.
  • For those Carolina Hurricane fans, your prospect Jack Johnson is doing quite well playing college hockey for the University of Michigan. In his 17 college games, Johnson has five goals and 16 assists with a +9. Less than a month ago, conducted this interview with Johnson. From the couple of games that I’ve seen, he’s a smart and strong defenseman. I’m just bummed that he’ll possibly go pro next season and the Wolverines won’t have his talented defensive abilities.
  • Back on December 9, Michael Fedor at Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic talked about Sidney Crosby stepping up as a leader to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Only 7 days later Michael was able to talk about Crosby being named Assistant Captain. Jes Golbez also chimes in on Crosby’s promotion at The Sidney Crosby Show. The Hockey Pundits also talk about Crosby’s “A.”
  • After articles like this one about the Carolina Hurricanes struggling attendance, Acid Queen has a thought or two on the topic.
  • Wondering which NHL team Sports Business Journal thought had the best website? The top three picks, in order, are the Atlanta Thrashers, Washington Capitals, and Chicago Blackhawks. The Detroit Red Wings came in 10th place, which surprises me because I don’t care for our website and it isn’t updated enough (in my mind).
  • The Vancouver Canucks Op Ed blog pointed out an interesting column from Cornell University’s sports editor of the college paper. He couldn’t believe the ‘craziness’ of the Cornell hockey fans and was embarrassed by their chants and actions. A friend of mine has season tickets to the Cornell hockey games and says that the games are a blast but the chanting can get pretty crazy, as in personal “attacks” to the opponents. But you’re going to get that at a lot of college sporting events. Hockey at Cornell is big like football here at University of Michigan (not that hockey isn’t big at UMich either). 
  • Red Wings visit Children’s Hospital of Michigan

    The Detroit Red Wings players and coaches, minus Jiri Fischer and Kris Draper, visited Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. The Wings make this trip yearly to encourage and lift the spirits of young ones fighting illnesses like cancer and hydrocephalus, an increase of fluid on the brain causing one boy named Joey to have 66 surgeries.

    Fischer could not attend for his obvious health condition and Draper came down with the flu and since some kids have low immune systems, he didn’t want to jeopardize their health. Both the players and patients missed Fischer because he is a team spokesman for the hospital’s Wish Club. “It was a little tough on all of us, knowing Fish wasn’t going to be part of it,” said Anne Marie Krappmann, community relations manager for the Wings.

    The Wings players chatted with parents and the kids, signed jerseys and photos, and took photos with the kids. Captain Steve Yzerman is always a big hit with the kids and this year was no exception. “You know, we get caught up in our lives, things we think are important,” Yzerman said. “These people here, they don’t complain. They don’t feel sorry for themselves, they just do what they have to do.” As much as the Wings inspire the young patients, the players are very much inspired by the kids. “The kids feel pretty good about seeing us, so you can’t help but feel pretty good about coming down here. We feel good seeing them,” Yzerman said.

    Source: The Detroit News

    Yzerman signed a hat, sweater, and puck for Michael Columbia, a 13-year-old boy who was diagnosed with brain cancer in April. “Stevie’s my favorite player,” Michael said. “My father’s told me a lot about him. He said he hoped that my treatments are good and that I don’t get sick again.” 

    Head coach Mike Babcock is active in multiple pediatric cancer charities and always admires the families of these ill children for their determination, love, and strength through it all. “You know, I lost my mom to cancer, but losing a mother doesn’t even compare to losing a child,” he said. “I have good friends who have lost children. … I can’t even imagine. I have three healthy children and thank God every day for that.”

    Other players’ thoughts on the day’s event:

    “If you can just make the kids feel good for a couple of hours, and not have them think about what’s going on for them, that’s good,” Tomas Holmstrom said. 

    “It gets to be really hard, 24 hours a day,” Mathieu Schneider said. “It’s really miraculous what these kids and families go through. The amazing thing with these kids, though, is they’re so resilient. When you see their faces, it gives you a special feeling.”

    Yzerman will not play in the 2006 Olympics

    Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman phoned Wayne Gretzky last night asking that he withdraw his name from the roster for the 2006 Olympics. The upcoming Winter Olympics will take place at Torino, Italy. “I talked to Wayne the other night and told him I didn’t feel I was playing well enough to hold one of 13 spots,” Yzerman told Sportsnet, referring to Team Canada general manager Wayne Gretzky. “I’m very grateful for past opportunities representing my country, but there’s too many good players playing too well for me to hold a spot on the roster.”

    Wings spokesman, John Hahn, confirmed this report that Yzerman will not be playing for Team Canada. Yzerman helped Canada win a gold medal in 2002 when the Winter Olympics took place in Salt Lake City and became only one of three to win the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal in the same season (teammate Brendan Shanahan was another).

    I was very pleased with Yzerman’s decision and not surprised whatsoever. I kept reading about people griping about how Yzerman will take a spot of one of the up and coming players, who would have a bigger impact on the team, and that he is being selfish about the whole ordeal. Give Yzerman credit. He is the classiest athlete I know, well have read about, and I’m just happy people around the country (well US and Canada) will finally see that and accept that. Yzerman has always done the best for his team, not himself. And this is just one of many examples backing that statement up. I had expected Yzerman to turn down the offer to play in the 2006 Olympics because he realized that he couldn’t play the same and while his leadership is invaluable, he couldn’t impact the team in ways other younger players could.

    So please, everyone, lighten up on The Captain. He’s not going to retire during this season, unless something crazy happens. He’s missing a couple of games here and there to give his knee and body a breather not because the coach is benching him. You can’t expect a 40 year old player to put up the numbers and time he did when he was 21. Enjoy the rest of the season that we have here with one of the best hockey players of all time.

    Behind the Blog: Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic

    Today’s Behind the Blog features Michael Fedor who runs Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic. His blog is always a great read whether it’s covering the blockbuster Joe Thornton trade, Dr. Phil Fantasy Episode, Sid the Kid, or Penn State hockey.

    Q.1 – Your first entry dates back to May 30, 2002. What made you decide to create an online hockey blog and why did you name it Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic?

    Well, a girl friend in TX introduced me to Blogger around that time. We were going to do a private blog just for each other. But I wanted to branch out on my own and write more about my favorite sport. I just wanted to share it with the world and maybe find others who liked it as much as I do.

    I don’t remember how I came up with the title exactly, so I just thought that the name fit. I live for hockey 24/7.

    Q.2 – Why are you a Pittsburgh Penguins fan and have you always been one?

    I have always been a fan of the Penguins because I grew up in Pittsburgh. It’s the hometown team! When I was little, I just watched hockey, but it was around 1990 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup that I really got into learning the players names and numbers. From then on, the sport was in my blood!

    Q.3 – What are your thoughts on the recent trade sending Sergei Federov to Columbus?

    When I profiled the Blue Jackets pre-lockout, I said that they were one player away from being a playoff contender. At the very least, they will be competitive. In the long run, I think this trade will help remove the “expansion team” stigma and make it a viable hockey franchise for many years to come. They’ve already been collecting top draft picks for a while now. Just like the same mold that Tampa Bay is using.

    Q.4 – What advice would you give to other bloggers, especially to the newcomers?

    Be a voracious reader! Get every diverse source available to you. Make sure you are educated about the game first. That keeps the “flames” away. Then surf around and honestly sign as many guest books and blog search engines as possible. That will help you to get noticed.

    Q.5 – Where do you see the Penguins and/or NHL in 10 years? Any thoughts on the rumors of the Penguins heading to Kansas City?

    I think the Penguins will eventually right the ship and fix things for the better. This CBA was tailor made for them. They can stay competitive with the bigger market teams, which in turn creates a better NHL. The Kansas City rumors are just hollow threats. Mario has done this a number of times and I believe they are all bluffing. It’s designed to put the pressure on the city government to bring a new arena to the city. If enough fans get scared into losing the team, then they will demand something be done about it. The Kansas City Blues are closer to that reality.

    Q.6 – Who is your favorite player? Why?

    Mario Lemieux is the default answer. However, I was also a fan of Milan Kraft when he played here. He had so much potential to be our number one center of the future, I even started calling him “millennium man” because his rookie year was during the 99-2000 season. But my really favorite player has been (don’t laugh) Manon Rheaume. After she played in that exhibition game for Tampa Bay, she’s been a real inspiration to me. She’s proof that if you keep doing what you love and never give up your dreams, eventually you will achieve something really big! Manon is the penultimate pioneer. I respect her very much.

    Q.7 – As seen from a recent entry, you follow the Penn State hockey team. How long have you been a fan of collegiate hockey and how do you think Penn State will do this season?

    I didn’t even know that Penn State had a team until I got there on campus in 1997. Since I skated there all the time, I bought a ticket to a game. I was even able to meet Penguins GM Craig Patrick there. He was really nice and approachable. What was even better, when I was broadcasting the Men’s games for WRSC, I was able to recognize Glen Patrick for being then the coach of the AHL Penguins.

    Penn State is unfortunately a big fish in a little pond. They can’t play NCAA yet until they get an ice complex that seats more than 200 people on one side of the rink. So, they dominate the ACHA conference every year. They’ll be at the national championship tournament in the top 4 this year. Look out for them!

    Q.8 – Do you think Sidney Crosby deserved the Rookie of the Month award for October? If not, who would you have picked to win it?

    I wouldn’t say that Crosby was undeserving, but I think there would have been a better choice with Ovechkin. With Alexander Ovechkin, he’s the one scoring all the game winning goals that month. Crosby is frustrated and stuck with an underachieving club. I’d wait and give November’s award to Crosby for his OT heroics against Montreal and Philadelphia.

    Q.9 – What team has disappointed you by their performance thus far into the season?

    Besides the Penguins, I think the Minnesota Wild have been underachieving. They’ve been missing their star forward Marian Gaborik all season because of injury. An 8-9-2 record is nothing to be proud of.

    Q.10 – If you could change one thing about the NHL, what would it be?

    I’d bring back Hartford, Quebec, and Winnipeg. I feel so sorry for those fans in those cities.

    Q.11 – Which division do you think is the most competitive this season?

    The Atlantic Division. It’s perfect the way it’s set up that they are all bitter regional rivals to each other. Philly is strong, the Rangers are on a tear, the Devils, Isles and Penguins are all within reach. Plus, with this new schedule of playing rivals more often, it’s going to be even more important to beat the teams in your own division.

    Q.12 – When did you attend your first hockey game and who was playing?

    I don’t remember the year, but it was sometime in the early 80′s. When I was a little kid in a catholic grade school, the parish priest, who also happen to moonlight as a hockey referee, treated all of the altar boys to see a Penguins game. They played the Washington Capitals back when their rivalry was still pretty hot. I remember the name players back then: Dale Hunter, Michal Pivonka, Al Iafrate, and Kevin Hatcher.

    Q.13 – If you had to predict which two teams would make it to the Stanley Cup finals, who would you pick and why?

    Ottawa may have finally stumbled on the recipe to finally succeed. They dumped a lot of what was holding them back. In the West, it’s a lot harder to predict, but based from early on, it looks like Detroit will survive on top.

    Q.14 – What do you hope to achieve with your blog over the next couple of years?

    I would like to sharpen my skills to be able to make better persuasive arguments. I have a budding career in radio and I just can’t simply be a digest of news anymore. And I would like to learn some simple HTML commands to fix up the sites look. Like a drop down menu for the archives section.

    Q.15 – Is there a hockey blog or site that you look up to for inspiration?

    I read my buddy Jes Golbez’s blog once a day, Christy’s Behind the Jersey is good for Western Conference news, and Budblog was one of the first that I started the blogroll with. HockeyNation and Hockey will Tear Us Apart give me a pretty good idea of what’s going on north of the border. Zany Sports Lady has it all covered (darn it.)

    Any additional comments?

    I think this is profile that Christy’s started is really clever. Rarely do hockey bloggers write about themselves and this is a great way to get to know the people they are reading.

    Islanders 2, Wings 1

    The Wings have suffered their second straight defeat (both at home) tonight as the New York Islanders’ Mike York (former MSU player) scored the game winning goal with less than four minutes left in the game. The Wings outshot the Islanders, 36-28, and won 54% of the faceoffs. All three goals came on even strength. No opponent has scored on the Islanders while on the power play for the past seven games.

    Mathieu Schneider scored 4:21 into the game with an assist from Jason Williams to put the Wings up on the board first. Alexei Yashin, of the Islanders, scored with less than two minutes left in the first period to tie the game. There was no scoring during the second period and only two penalties, both from Detroit players (Maltby and Chelios).

    Sorry that this isn’t a more detailed post as I did watch the game, but I was doing so while working on homework and studying. I have 3 exams (not finals, but exams nonetheless) and a 20 minute presentation on Tuesday and Wednesday so aside from the Behind the Blog post tomorrow, I won’t be updating until at least Wednesday evening. Sorry!

    Updates will be less

    Sorry that I haven’t been updating very frequently lately. I have my first college final today and then 5 more exams and a presentation from now until the 16th. Additionally, this crazy Michigan weather is really flairing up my knee problems so I’ve been kind of out of it lately. I’ll try to update when I can, but updates will resume at normal level by the time I’m done with my last final, sorry!

    - By now you’ve heard that Joe Thornton was traded to the San Jose Sharks, which was a big surprise to me since he’s been Boston’s franchise player. Heather at and Jon at Sharkspage give their thoughts on the trade from their respective ends.

    - Jiri Fischer was back in the hospital yesterday after an irregular heartbeat. He will be undergoing some more tests as a result. I had hoped that Fischer would be able to eventually return to the NHL, but each incident lowers the chance. I just hope his health gets better.

    Next Entries »