Red Wings visit Selfridge
Detroit Red Wings Kris Draper, Chris Osgood, Dan Cleary, Brett Lebda and the Stanley Cup spent time at the Harrison Township military base on their way up to today's opening of training camp in Traverse City. The four Red Wings drew their share of attention, but the longest line for pictures was for the Stanley Cup, not the players.
"That's the way it should be," said Draper. "People like us, but when we bring the Cup, people really like us. That's the best part."
The Red Wings' annual trek north from Joe Louis Arena was altered this year with two groups of players going separate from the main group. Draper, Osgood, Cleary and Lebda stopped at Selfridge and White Pine Middle School in Saginaw before arriving in Traverse City. Henrik Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall went to the State National Guard headquarters in Lansing and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids before heading north.
Thus marks the end of a summer of celebrating with the Stanley Cup for the Red Wings, who begin their business -- winning another championship -- Friday in Traverse City.
The Cup is the oldest team-sports trophy in North America, first being awarded in 1892. Unlike the trophies awarded in other sports, new Stanley Cups are not made each year. Cup winners keep the trophy only until a new champion is crowned. It is the only trophy in professional sports that has the name of the winning players, coaches, management, and club staff engraved on it.
"It's nice to get one more day with the Cup," said Lebda. "You have a day with it in the summer, but having bonus time is nice.
"It's kinda funny because wherever you bring the Cup, people know what it is, even if they're not hockey fans. It's such a symbol that when you show up with it, people stop and take notice. As much as we're ambassadors, it's the Cup that's the ambassador."
Selfridge commander Gen. Michael Peplinski welcomed the four Red Wings before they took part in a question-and-answer session and mingled with the military crowd, getting pictures taken.
"You've got some die-hard fans out here," said Gen. Peplinski. "For those of us who have been deployed around the world, no matter where we are in the world, you're our home team. When you go over to the dining facilities over in Iraq or Afghanistan, if some (TV) is carrying the Red Wings, you will find the men and women who are standing in this room, trying to watch their home team win."
The Red Wings walked into a Selfridge hangar to applause from the 100 or so in attendance, Joe Louis Arena music blaring on loudspeakers. The players answered screened and authorized questions ranging from "Does the Cup feel light when you lift it after winning the final game?" to "What's your favorite place to play on the road?" (If you're curious, the Cup is very heavy after battling on the ice and Phoenix is always a nice winter destination.)
Then came meet-and-greets with the people in attendance, snap shots holding children and handshakes with adults.
"I like doing military bases, especially being American," said Lebda. "There's not too many of us (Americans) on the team. When we go in and bring the Cup, they're thanking us for bringing it. We should be thanking them for what they do."
"What these people do, go through day-in day-out is unbelievable," said Draper. "They're excited to see us and the Stanley Cup. But for us, it's truly an honor to meet these people."