Detroit — Pampered.
It is a word that has occurred to them about their new set-up in Little Caesars Arena, some of the Red Wings say.
Their dressing room is 323.7 percent bigger than at Joe Louis Arena, and they do not have to work out in it.
They can just dress there.
Media folks do not kick around their goalie pads or skates anymore, trying to get to the next interview in cramped quarters.
It is easier to find your stool in a media scrum, even if the guy who dresses next to you scored twice.
No more trips to whichever Grosse Pointe that was for practices or morning skates when the latest rocker or hip-hop guy is in concert that day.
Banged up before or after a game, and there is a lot more therapeutic and diagnostic equipment right on site. No need to jump in the car and drive yourself somewhere, or have a trainer play chauffer.
Need a restorative cold plunge? The trainers no longer have to haul ice to fill up a whirlpool.
There is a big cold plunge on site.
Need heat? Your choice of steam, sauna and a hot tub and little need to wait.
And gone are the days when, after a game, in search of a long-waiting wife or kids or mom or dad or sis or bro or those high school buddies in from Saskatchewan or Slovakia, players left the dressing room, turned left, squeezed in between cinderblock walls and a box truck parked on the lower concourse of Joe Louis Arena, while stepping over television cables, ducking under cameras, hurdling the splayed legs of tripods, and trying to avoid the visiting team using the concourse for their postgame workouts and stationary bike rides, to walk a third of the way around the building to find them.
In the early season? Bad enough.
In the playoffs? Comical. But only in the right state of mind, like after a win.
No more truck battles
When you got to the room where your folks waited, it looked a bit like Uncle George’s rec room down in his basement, despite everyone’s best efforts to spruce up the bowels of “The Joe.”
In Little Caesars Arena, the family room is nearby, in a private area, a walk away down carpeted corridors.
And it looks like something in a luxury hotel.
The visiting team has its own workout area, in a room off where they are unseen.
The media can set up in still other rooms, designated for postgame press conferences.
The trucks are where trucks should be: At loading docks, not on concourses.
And the docks are buried under an area near the Chevrolet Plaza, outdoors, deep below alternating layers of fill and liner piled several feet over enormous foam blocks that stand on the roof of the docks.
Few are more pleased about the arrangement than one of the hardest working men around the building, Paul Boyer, the equipment manager.
Not only is there no need to pull the box truck into the concourse, the all-important equipment guys have their own loading dock.
“I’m not battling TV trucks. I’m not battling a concert load-in,” Boyer said. “There’s four trucks on the dock, unloading rigging and staging? I don’t have to deal with that.
“So, I always have my spot.”
It avoids what sometimes occurred at Joe Louis Arena: Having to load all of a team’s equipment through a doorway to the truck parked out on the sidewalk on Atwater, along the north bank of the Detroit River, in the dead of winter, closing in on midnight.
“At Joe Louis, there was one door at the east gate, and if we didn’t have access, if they were loading out a concert, I had to pull around the back of the building on the sidewalk and load through outside,” Boyer explained.
“And if you do that in the middle of January and there’s a snow storm going on, you’ll never want to do it again!”
Boyer said the new building “makes the equipment manager’s job one heck of a lot easier on a day-to-day basis.”
Yes, if you are one of the Red Wings these days, you can sort of lean back on your stool in front of your dressing stall, clasp your hands behind your head, put your feet up on your packed traveling tote and think, “Man, they really thought of everything.”
“This place is tremendous,” Jimmy Howard said. “It has everything we could ever possibly need, here.
“It’s really, like — it’s almost like spoiling us.”
Checking all the boxes
In Joe Louis Arena, Howard and Petr Mrazek’s dressing stalls, in front of which their leg pads and skates often laid, were about 12 feet from where coaches and players stood to address the media.
The more important the game, the bigger the scrum. The bigger the scrum, the greater likelihood the pads came into play, or someone’s backside might come right up against you.
“It’s nice, here,” Howard said of Little Caesars Arena. “It’s just a great facility.”
Asked about the advantages and the features, Henrik Zetterberg thought back to the preparation and planning.
“Well, I can put it like this: We had our wish list of what we wanted to have for our facilities, and we didn’t get one 'no,' ” he said, describing the consultation between ownership, management and the players in the construction process.
“So here we have everything that we asked for and, as a player, that you can have,” Zetterberg said.
“As a player that’s been around for a few years, it’s pretty cool to have everything you need in the facility.”
A big part of the new conveniences is how many things are on site that used to be a drive away, or are now part of the permanent design of the place rather than ragtag.
“To help us get ready for games, if we are a little banged up, we have everything here to get ourselves healthy again,” Zetterberg said.
No more running around town for some therapy. No more running to rinks around town for practices and skates.
Zetterberg said the advantages of no longer partially dressing on the riverfront and then driving to practice are for both the players and the motoring public on I-94.
“That’s nice. And it’s good for the traffic here that we’re not driving around in our equipment,” he said, with a big smile.
There have been some concerns about the ice, given that it has not been worked-in by much skating yet, and the hottest days of the year occurred during the first week the Wings played in the building.
But the players say the solution is more time to skate on it, for the weather to turn and the therapeutic ministrations of Al Sobotka.
The boards seemed to cause a little consternation, with some uneven bounces in early practices. But so far, the problem has not reoccurred in practices or games, coach Jeff Blashill and some of the players said.
Such problems are also amenable, given Sobotka’s experience.
“Whether it’s the bounces on the boards or whether it’s just everything, getting used to how everything works is going to be real important,” Blashill said near the start of preseason, of the move into Little Caesars Arena.
“For sure, I think just getting used to everything is important so that we’re real comfortable come the regular season, so it’s not a matter of feeling our way through,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready to hit the ground running.
“It’s an awesome, awesome building.”
It all has Zetterberg a bit whimsical, as he plays later in his career.
“For me, I wish it was 15 years ago,” he said. “But the young guys here are going to enjoy these facilities for their careers.”