Detroit — Hockey returned to Joe Louis Arena Wednesday, but so did Mr. Hockey.
And considering this was a relatively meaningless exhibition game, word of Gordie Howe being in the building was much bigger news.
The Red Wings won the game, 4-1 over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (who essentially dressed their minor league team for the game).
Tomas Tatar had three goals and linemate Brad Richards made an impressive debut assisting on all three goals.
But it was news of Howe that brought smiles to many people.
Howe, 87, was in attendance with his sons Mark and Murray, approximately 11 months from a major stroke had dealt Howe a major setback.
But Howe’s recovery — the family credits stem cell treatments — has been phenomenal, and Howe was pictured on social media talking, smiling and joking, meeting Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, even visiting the Red Wings dressing room.
“It’s awesome,” said Blashill, who met Howe before when Blashill was an assistant coach with the Red Wings three years ago. “He’s Gordie Howe, it’s incredible. It was awesome to see him.
“I’ve worked with Mark Howe (a Red Wings pro scout) closely over the last four years and I’ve had conversations with how Gordie was doing. It was great to see him.
“I wasn’t in the room when he came into the room but our players..one thing this team understands is the history within this rom and certainly Gordie Howe and his presence. When you’re somebody like that, you have presence.”
Howe also met with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville and his staff, arena workers and posing for pictures with Red Wings personnel.
Howe made his first public appearance in February back in his native Saskatchewan. He is currently living with his son Murray, a radiologist, in the Toledo area.
Howe, nor his family, spoke to the media. Howe spent time watching the game from the owner’s suite.
As for the game?
The Blackhawks had a 31-25 edge in shots on net, but the Red Wings capitalized on their opportunities and overcame a sluggish start.
“We were real slow the first half of the game, we didn’t get going until the third period for whatever reason,” Blashill said. “We’ll have to be better than that, but our guys know that.”
The Tatar, Richards and Tomas Jurco line made an impressive debut, Richards and Tatar showing some immediate chemistry.
Richards and Tatar executed a nice give-and-go on Tatar’s first goal at 11:30 of the first period.
Tatar made it 3-1 at 4:24 of the third period, knocking in a loose puck of Richards’ shot on net, then ended the scoring with an empty-net goal at 18:26.
“He knows how to score,” said Richards, talking about his early impressions of Tatar. “I like that. He finds way to score. He’s likes giving and going and he’s a heady player. So far, it’s fun to play with him.”
Said Tatar: “He’s (Richards) a real smart player, a great player, and he made some nice plays out there.”
Justin Abdelkader had the other Red Wings' goal, snapping a 1-1 tie by scoring on a breakaway.
Andrew Shaw (power play) scored for Chicago.
Petr Mrazek stopped all 16 shots he faced in his first game of the season, including 13 in a busy first period.
Jared Coreau replaced Mrazek midway in the second period and allowed one goal on 15 shots.