Thursday night should have been time off for the Detroit Red Wings, a day to rest one day after hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets and one day before the Chicago Blackhawks came to town. Since the NHL lockout began on September 16, most of the team has done nothing but rest, so a night off wasn’t needed.
On a night that should have been between games where the Red Wings would see 20,000 fans cheering them on, a handful of current and former Detroit players played in front of 7,000 fans at the University of Michigan’s Yost Arena in a charity game to benefit Mott Children’s Hospital, as part of an all-pro team facing off against the U.S. under-18 national team.
Current Wings Manny Legace, Derian Hatcher, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Kris Draper and Steve Yzerman were all present. Former Wings Doug Brown, Steve Duchesne, Aaron Ward, Kevin Miller and Sergei Fedorov were there.
Former Wolverines David Roberts, Chris Tamer, Bill Muckalt and David Harlock, former Michigan State University Spartans Bryan Smolinski and Kip Miller, former Detroit Viper Sergei Samsonov, and former Detroit Jr. Red Wing and Michigan K-Wing Jeff Mitchell rounded out the pro roster.
Detroit native Kid Rock dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff and acted as coach for the pro team, flanked by celebrity assistants Bobby Higginson and Tera Reid.
The pros didn’t beat up the teenagers too badly, taking only a 1-0 lead after the end of one period and finishing the game up 6-2. Chelios, the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, played most of the game as a forward, cherry-picking at Team USA’s blue line.
Ward opened the game’s scoring and goals by Draper and Fedorov followed in the second period. Draper scored again before Team USA got a goal when Phil Kessel crached the net to finish the second period scoring. Draper finished his hat trick early in the third. Andreas Vlassopoulos scored Team USA’s second goal before Kip Miller closed out the scoring, putting in the rebound from a Doug Brown shot that bounced off the glass behind the goal and came back out in front.
The game could have been overshadowed by the announcement earlier in the day that the NHL and NHLPA would meet for the first time since the lockout began, but it wasn’t. For one night it wasn’t about the lockout, it was about a packed arena where seasoned veterans took on teenagers to benefit charity.
The PA announcer mocked the players. Chelios put fake hits on a linesman. It wasn’t the NHL, but it wasn’t supposed to be.