By @StefanKubus –
DETROIT – Detroit Red Wings players are gearing up for their first season at Little Caesars Arena, still in the heart of the off-season.
But it’s always good to take a break from the grueling workouts, especially when it means giving back.
On Thursday, forward Evgeny Svechnikov and defensemen Vili Saarijarvi and Danny DeKeyser took to the ice at Joe Louis Arena once more alongside the likes of Kirk Maltby and Red Wings goaltending coach Jeff Salajko to help instruct at the Red Wings Youth Camp.
“It’s good, I love playing with the kids, it’s so much fun,” Saarijarvi said. “I kind of had the same thing back home in Finland for a couple days, so it was fun to go on the ice and play a little bit with them.”
For Svechnikov, who is aiming to find a full-time spot with the Red Wings after a brief stint in Detroit last season and a Calder Cup championship in Grand Rapids, it was not only special for the kids, but himself, too.
“It’s special for the kids and for us also,” Svechnikov said. “It’s awesome to see every kid laughing and happy to train and see how they do, how we do and hopefully they’re gonna look up to us and bring them steps forward. Being around Joe Louis Arena, it’s awesome, they’re looking at everything, it’s happy.”
Photos by Stefan Kubus/MiHockey
Meanwhile, DeKeyser has been busy on the charity front. The Macomb native just played in a pair of charity games the previous week – one benefiting Lakeland Hockey Association and the other being the Eastside Elite All-Star Game.
“The last couple of weeks have been good,” DeKeyser said. “I worked with the Salvation Army a little bit, Larkin’s camp last week and now today this, so it’s been a good couple weeks and it’s good to work with the kids and get out when I can.”
His message to the kids was simple: keep hockey fun.
“I always just tell the kids to have fun; get out there, have fun and work hard and then hope the pieces fall into place after that, but if you’re out there and you’re miserable, it’s probably not going to go your way, so I just tell them to have fun.”
Saarijarvi, the Red Wings’ third-round pick in 2015, had the same advice.
“Probably just have fun and when they go home, do stuff at home, too, not just only here at the rink,” Saarijarvi said. “When they go home, go shoot pucks and play with other friends, play other sports. I think that helped me a lot, playing different sports when I was younger.
“I used to play soccer every summer, then I played a little bit of volleyball and a lot of different sports in Finland. If there’s something, they needed a player, I always wanted to go in and play, so I think that helped me a lot to become an all-around athlete.”
Like Saarijarvi, DeKeyser said playing multiple sports, including baseball and basketball in middle school, helped him develop as an athlete.
“I think it’s definitely important to do that,” DeKeyser said. “It can be a lot just playing one sport for 12 months, so mixing it up is good and it helps with other aspects of athleticism, too.”
For Saarijarvi, working the camp as someone the kids look up to was reminiscent of when he was in the kids’ skates growing up in Finland.
“Back home in Finland, when I saw older players come in, it gives me a huge boost to show and be there how they were there. I’m sure it was fun for them, too.”
Svechnikov had one piece of advice for a kid who wants to be where he is in his hockey career.
“Never give up, just give it all you have.”