A group of Wallaceburg hockey players took to the ice on Wednesday, January 3, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Celebrating Ian Barnes’ 7th birthday, the group of 15 Wallaceburg athletes played a scrimmage during the first intermission of the Red Wings and Ottawa Senators game.
Ron Barnes, Ian’s dad, helped organize the experience for the kids with the help of the Red Wings organization.
He said it was an all around great experience for the kids, and for the 80 plus people from the Wallaceburg area who took two buses down to Detroit for the game.
“It was awesome,” Barnes told the Sydenham Current.
“I remember from back in the day, when my brothers used to play at the Joe, that they used to do these kind of things. I tracked down a contact and just kept pushing and pushing, until finally someone from the Red Wings called me back to get the ball rolling.”
Barnes said the kids got to see some of the Ottawa players outside of their dressing room before the game, along with meeting a former Red Wings player and Stanley Cup champion.
“All the Senators were down there warming up, playing soccer and stretching, they were right there,” he said.
“We met Kris Draper before too… the kids probably didn’t know who Draper is, but we do. Probably one of the grittiest guys that I know that played. He was coaching the Little Caesars AAA team at the Detroit Red Wings practice rink. We were kind of exploring and as soon as he saw a bunch of little kids in the Tim Hortons jerseys he came right over and said ‘how’s it going guys’ right in the middle of his practice.”
Ian, who doesn’t actually celebrate his birthday until February, volunteered to be interviewed on the big screen in the arena following their scrimmage.
“When they asked him to give a ‘Go Wings Go’ he started out to say ‘Go Lakers Go’, so it sounded more like ‘Led Wings’,” Barnes said.
The kids also had the opportunity to to have a meet-and-greet with Cody Ceci of the Senators.
“Everybody got autographs and pictures with him, he came right out into the stands,” Barnes said.
“That was pretty cool too. It was the cherry on top.”
Barnes said he plans on writing to the Red Wings to express his gratitude.
“Just to let them know everything that they did to make our experience awesome,” he said.
The kids also got to watch the game, which ended in a 2-1 overtime victory for Detroit.
Barnes said the boys, who are all between five and seven-years-old, are a group of friends who play hockey and lacrosse together in Wallaceburg.