It might not have been the traditional Red Wings’ visit to the Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital, but spirits were still lifted.
Coach Mike Babcock, general manager Ken Holland and radio play-by-play announcer Ken Kal were the first wave of Wings to visit the Children’s Hospital this Thursday. Next Thursday, former players Kris Draper, Chris Chelios, Kirk Maltby and Chris Osgood will see the kids.
“Usually it’s the players and Mike Babcock, the coaching staff,” Holland said. “Obviously this year with no players, we’ve put together a different group. I’m sure the people would like to see the players but for me, it’s an opportunity to give back.”
Babcock doesn’t just visit once a year. He’s at the hospital so often that he has his own identification card.
“I’m obviously real lucky, I get to see these kids all the time,” Babcock said. “They come to games, this year they haven’t come to games, we haven’t had any. But I still managed to get here once before. Normally it’s the players that are here with me at this time. But we got Grover and Ken Holland today, so it should be a lot of fun.”
During the holiday season, the Wings realize even more how difficult it can be when a child is ill.
“It’s interesting, when one of your children get sick, the whole family gets sick, it infects everybody,” Babcock said. “When you’re here and you see the work of the doctors, and you see the work of the nurses and the passion of the people that work here, it’s inspiring to say the least and I think it puts things in perspective. I’m very blessed, I have three healthy children and a healthy wife and health is the first priority in anyone’s life.”
Normally, the Wings are very busy at this time of the year, but with the lockout still going, some players have gone to play in Europe and some have remained in the area and are skating together at the Troy Sports Center.
But what do front office people like Holland and Babcock do?
“I don’t know if I’m bored, I’m a busy guy, find lots to do, whether that be watching practices or running practices or spending time with my family or going to games, I’ve managed to keep very busy,” Babcock said. “Now, would I rather be coaching the Red Wings? Absolutely. I think people on both sides of the equation, whether that be players, owners, management, everybody wants to get playing, we know how important it is for our game and for our fans.”
Like Babcock, Holland is hopeful that he’ll soon be much busier.
“I’ll go to Grand Rapids Friday and Saturday,” Holland said. “Obviously the workload is a half, a third of what it normally is. Usually you’re at the office all day long. Now I go there for two, three hours and the phone never rings and I go home, maybe go to a game at night. I think everybody’s got their fingers crossed that a solution can be found.”