Colorful hand made posters lined the walls and professional athletes answered questions from small children.
This is what happened when three Detroit Red Wings entered a gym filled with elementary students wearing their favorite Red Wings shirts yelling, screaming and chanting “Go Wings.”
This was all a part of the fifth annual Michigan Wings Community Tour that included a stop at a local elementary school in Mount Pleasant Tuesday.
Niklas Kronwall said meeting the elementary school students was a rewarding experience for each of the players as much as it was for the kids. The kids and faculty erupted in applause when they saw center Pavel Datsyuk, Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson walk in front of the 425 students at the school as part of the central leg of the tour.
“It’s a chance for us to get out there in the community and meet our fans and people outside of the hockey rink,” Kronwall said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to see our fans in a different environment.”
This was Kronwall’s third tour, while Datsyuk and Ericsson have each been participating for two years.
John Hahn, senior director of communications for the Detroit Red Wings, said the idea started out as a way for the team to reach out into the community in order to meet with fans.
“We were never really able to get outside of that northwest region of the state, so we did some brainstorming on how we can get out into the community on the way up to camp,” Hahn said.
Before the players arrived, the students and faculty met in the gym for a question-and-answer session involving Red Wings trivia to increase the excitement, if at all possible. Prizes, T-shirts and Red Wings-themed school supplies, were given out to the students.
Other players participating in this year’s tour include defenseman Danny DeKeyser, forward Patrick Eaves, center Cory Emmerton, goaltender Jimmy Howard, forward Justin Abdelkader and winger Drew Miller.
“Everyone is talking about hockey right now and really excited about the upcoming season,” Ericsson said. “It really gets you fired up when you see everyone around you that’s excited.”
Ganiard Elementary School Principal Marcy Stout said the faculty were just as excited as the students for the players arrival.
“We were so lucky,” Stout said. “We were in the right place at the right time that we got the phone call that they would be coming to Ganiard.”
The school’s luck didn’t end there.
The Red Wings helped out the school by donating nets, gloves and hockey sticks while memorabilia, including banners, shirts and jerseys, were signed and will be used in an auction to raise money for the school.
Kronwall said he hopes the students remember this day for years to come.
“Hopefully they enjoyed it and that this is something they can look back on in a few years from now when they understand more about the game and watch us play,” Kronwall said.
Questions were submitted by students for the players to answer during the event.
Kronwall, Datsyuk and Ericsson spoke about their favorite childhood memory as hockey players, what they eat before games and their experience playing for the Red Wings.
Some of the questions were harder hitting than others.
“When they asked what was the worst injury you’ve ever gotten, that was the toughest question,” Datsyuk said. “It brought some back bad memories.”
Although that question might have brought up bad memories for Datsyuk, it made the day for one lucky student and the appearance made the year for the entire school.