Red Wings ring some bells for good cause
Like snow and Christmas lights, the Salvation Army kettle bell ringers are a familiar sight each holiday season across southeast Michigan.
And for years, so too are the Detroit Red Wings players and staff who surround the iconic buckets for a cause.
On Friday, current and former hockey giants flocked to four Metro Detroit sites, competing in teams to raise money as part of the 11th annual Red Wings for Red Kettles.
“We always try to give back,” alumnus Chris Chelios said while standing near a red container at a Kroger in Northville. “The players are more than happy to give back to kids or anything to help charity.”
He and the other Wings brought in $23,083.68 for the Salvation Army on Friday during the contest, which aimed to support the nonprofit’s STRIVE floor hockey program. Launched in 2009, the effort teaches the basics of the sport and team-building skills to youths ages 8-12.
The program is among many supported by the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign, which this year has an $8.4 million goal.
At a time of dire need in the region and campaign donations down about 10 percent, the Red Wings’ push is a boost, said Major Russ Sjögren, general secretary/Metro Detroit area commander for the Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division.
“This is going to be very helpful,” he said. “They’ve got a big draw.”
That was evident Friday evening at a Kroger on Haggerty in Northville, where hundreds of fans lined up in the blustery cold for a chance to greet Red Wings legends Chelios, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood.
The trio stood near produce aisles, welcoming a steady stream of diehards who ponied up cash while also bearing hockey pucks, pictures and other Red Wings memorabilia for autographs.
“It’s a tribute to the Red Wings, because it’s freezing outside and they’re all in line,” Chelios said as fans stuffed money into the red bucket beside him.
Ken Thiel of South Lyon waited about an hour in a lengthy line to snag autographs on a red-and-white mini-helmet as well as hockey pucks.
“I think it’s great that athletes, especially some of our alumni guys, are willing to come out here and do this for charity,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Also among the crowd was Joe Ferguson, 18, of St. Clair Shores, who grinned as he chatted with Chelios.
“I’m a big fan,” he said, showing off his newly signed gifts. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity… all for a good cause.”
Tracy Arbaugh of Roseville attended with her 4-month-old son, who is named after player Dylan Larkin and visited the store bundled in a Wings one-piece. She also brought a large homemade poster other team luminaries signed.
“I love that they do this every year,” she said. “It’s a good cause. I’m glad I got out.”
Fans seeking autographs at all four locations were asked to make a $10 donation each.
Elsewhere, visitors at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy had to chance to rub elbows with Red Wings forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm, who collected $6,168.90. And in Royal Oak, Anthony Mantha and Luke Glendening drummed up $4,851 in support for the effort.
Meanwhile, at another Kroger in Northville, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill and Ken Holland, the team’s executive vice president/general manager, raised $5,915.78 in two hours.
Overall, the Detroit Red Wings have now raised nearly $135,000 for the Salvation Army since 2005, representatives said Friday night.
“We’re trying to help raise money but at the same time we’re trying to raise awareness so people know that this time of year there are people in need,” Holland said after meeting shoppers. “Whatever they can give, the Salvation Army is going to help.”