Sep. 27—TRAVERSE CITY — After four days of getting accustomed to being back on the ice and meeting new teammates and coaches, the Detroit Red Wings are ready to begin their preseason games.
The final day of Red Wings training camp in Traverse City ended Monday, and even the most dedicated fans showed up. Some of the same fans who were there on Friday returned on Monday. The volunteers at Center Ice Arena loved being around the environment, whether it is for a paycheck or not.
Detroit's first preseason game is Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Head coach Derek Lalonde, who was hired during the offseason, is pleased that there are games to play before starting the season.
"Structure and keep building in on our process with implementing new neutral zones," said Lalonde on what he wants to see in preseason. "Take a step every day, and hopefully with our structure, which is something new for the guys, but certainly establishing some attitude.
"I feel fortunate that we have eight (preseason) games this year to tune some things up before our home opener."
Like most NHL organizations, rosters haven't been set in place. Lalonde hasn't thought much about it, saying he'll have a better idea through those eight games.
"(General Manager) Steven (Yzerman) and I have talked a few times, we've talked directly about being patient with this," Lalonde said. "Haven't stressed about it or gone too deep into it. So I can't look at all our numbers going forward."
For teams who are well experienced with each other, having eight games may seem like a lot; but for Lalonde and his staff, it is a godsend.
"This is the first time and only time in my NHL career I'll be happy to have eight games," said Lalonde with a smile.
When Lalonde was the assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lighting, they had roughly six or seven games.
"To me six is good, seven is a little too much, but eight games is a little excessive," he laughed. "I understand there's a business aspect to it, but for us, this year, it's going to be beneficial."
Throughout training camp, players have mentioned that being a part of a new system has brought a sense of hope after the past few seasons. Right-wing Filip Zadina has been with Detroit since 2018 and mentioned things are going in the right direction for the team.
For Zadina, the past few seasons haven't been memorable. The Red Wings haven't made the playoffs since 2016, and the fans have hope for a fresh start.
Part of being in a new system is playing fast, and with the young players on the team, the Red Wings know they can play that way.
"We have the young guys who can skate and can fly," Zadina said. "It's exciting for sure, we'll see how it goes in the preseason games."
Many of the fans got a chance to see their favorite players up close. For one little girl, she was starstruck after a player hugged her before proceeding to the ice. Some of the workers have been volunteering to work training camp at Centre Ice Arena since the 1990s and have always enjoyed meeting the players and coaches when they pass by.
For the chefs who provide the meals to the team, it gives them a chance to make business connections. One of the chefs mentioned to his students to treat prospects and training camp as a way to make connections because you never know if a player might want to use you as their chef.
At times, some of the workers peek behind their working stations to catch a glimpse of what the Red Wings could look like once the regular season comes around.
The Red Wings' regular season kicks off at home on Oct. 14.