Tag Archives: Windsor Spitfires

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.

 

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Detroit Digs Deep for D

Since Lidstrom is holding off on retirement for another season, the Wings fittingly shopped for defensemen. Notable defenseman Ian White signed on a two-year, $5.75 million contract. White has 36 goals and 143 points in 401 NHL games with San Jose, Carolina, Calgary and Toronto. White is a strong blueliner who will add depth to the Wings.

Jonathan Ericsson nabbed a big deal in the NHL buyer’s market with a 3-year contract at almost $10 million. Ericsson made $900,000 last season playing 74 games and contributing 15 points (three goals, 12 assists). He can pack a punch, but can he place more in net?

The Red Wings also acquired defenseman Mike Commodore to a 1 year, $1 million contract. Currently, there is a campaign to encourage Commodore to wear jersey #64 honoring the vintage circa 1980s anchor of a computer. Good PR for the Red Wings, so go for it!

Garnet Exelby has signed a one-year contract lending a helping hand. With over 600 games worth of professional hockey experience, Exelby’s previous stints for the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs will prove beneficial for the fans. I recall some serious penalty minutes from this guy as an enforcer.

Patrick Eaves and Drew Milller will be back next season. Eaves extends his Detroit time with a 3-year, $3.6 million gig. Miller signed on for 2-years, $1.65 million.

Logan Pyett, also gained a one-year deal with the Wings. Pyett has spent the past three seasons with Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins where he has tallied 21G-45A-66P-91PIM in 215 games.

The #35 pick for the Wings in the NHL Entry Draft, Tomas Jurco, has been compared to Pavel Datsyuk for his slick moves and stick-handling abilities. Recently, Jurco was on the St. John’s Sea dogs who won the 2011 Memorial Cup. Across the Detroit River, the Memorial Cup has been home to the Windsor Spitfires, creating a vortex of hockey. The Spitfires and Sea dogs have changed the template for success in junior hockey elevating the quality of play.

Xavier Quellet, another drafted defenseman, is a puck-moving blueliner who has the type of profile the Wings like. A defenseman from the OHL, Ryan Sproul of Sault Ste. Marie, will also bolster the Wings in years to come. And we got a Russian. Alexei Marchenko is expected to be one of the top defensemen on the Russian world junior team.

Nine picks in this 2011 Entry Draft is the most since 2005. Let’s cross our fingers, wash the Red Wings Ts and get ready to root for the next great wave of Wingdom.

Taylor Hall: A Player to Watch

Memorial Cup MVP Taylor Hall is expected to go early in the 2010 draft.  Having been profiled by the legendary Don Cherry during his Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, and awarded rookie of the year in both the OHL and CHL in 2008, all eyes are on Team Canada and Hall for the World Juniors. Hall scored a hat trick in the 3-0 shutout of Slovakia following in the footsteps of last season’s top pick, John Tavares. Both scored a hat trick during the IIHF World Junior Championship.

With the search on for the youngest and most charismatic player, hockey boys who used to play the puck on frozen streets now have made it to the big time. Hall led all OHL players with 23 goals, 54 points; Tavares had only two more points than Hall.  Taylor Hall already has the maturity to play in the league.  His style can only be witnessed in the awe of the goals he puts away that most goalies couldn’t even prevent.  If you are not familiar with his work, look up his scoring videos online. Hall finds the tiniest hole and fits the puck through, with skill not miracles.  This young Canadian brings both style and substance.

A product of Kingston, Ontario Hall’s rap sheet includes Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the year for the 2007-08 season, the Wayne Gretzky Trophy in 2008-09, and national attention centered on Hall last year as MVP of the Memorial Cup.  Hall has played the past two seasons with the Windsor Spitfires, a team who reside across the riverbanks from the Detroit Red Wings.  The area lives hockey and for the city of Windsor to bring home the MVP and the Cup was an uplifting time for a downtrodden city greatly affected by the auto industry collapse.

In an interview from the Ottawa Citizen, Taylor Hall was quoted “he patterns himself after players like Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins and Martin Havlat of the Chicago Blackhawks, because they’re fast and they’re not the biggest guys.”  Hall has shown speed and an ability to excite the fans and the media.  At the World Juniors games, Hall was cheered on as a star, the hopeful for Canada. With the crowd chanting his name, Hall was awarded MVP after winning over Slovakia.  Humble and hardworking, this future NHL star has demonstrated his talents before the masses.

Canada blasted through their opponents with dominance, and faced USA in the quarter semi-final.  It was a voracious scoring match to prove who’s the best on the border, with a 4-4 tie ending in a Canadian shootout victory.

Team Canada and Taylor Hall earned a bye round, and moved on to play Switzerland Sunday in a semi-final match-up. Hall scored a beautiful goal against the Swiss opening up the lead to 3-0 in the second period.  The third period led hall to open ice and an amazing wrap around goal adding to the win over Switzerland 6-1.

Canada met the USA for the gold medal game on Tuesday, and Hall scored one goal; however, it was not enough to beat the USA for Gold. Team USA beat Canada 6-5 in overtime.  Hall had a total of six goals in the World Junior Championships

Hall has patience and plays as a team member rather than a grandstander. With his name atop the rookie draft list for next season, he will become not just a household name in Canada but global.  The draft isn’t close, so no predictions can be made of where he may play.  Put Taylor Hall on your wish list for next year’s fantasy leagues.  I’ve forewarned you.