Whalers Play Opening Preseason Game in Wyandotte
Photo - Plymouth's Tom Wilson battles in front of the Windsor net with Spitfires defensman Saverio Posa (white, 27) in a game last season. Photo by Rena Laverty.
PLYMOUTH – For the fourth straight season, the Plymouth Whalers are taking their first pre-season game on the road.
The Whalers have announced their opening preseason game against the Windsor Spitfires will be played on Sat. Sept. 1 at 7:00 pm at Yack Arena in Wyandotte. Yack Arena is located at 3131 3rd Street in Wyandotte, a suburb of Detroit in the Downriver area.
Billed as the “Duel Downriver”, the proceeds of the Plymouth-Windsor game will benefit the Wyandotte Warriors Amateur Hockey Association, Wyandotte Bears High School Hockey and the Wyandotte Figure Skating Club.
Tickets are $10 and are available calling by the Wyandotte Warriors Hockey Association at (734) 341-5893 or Compuware Arena at (734) 453-8400.
The admission includes a Post-Game Meet-and-Greet Autograph session with the Whalers, who feature four first-round National Hockey League Draft choices (Stefan Noesen, Rickard Rakell, JT Miller and Tom Wilson) and other NHL drafts Matt Mahalak (Carolina), Connor Carrick (Washington), Cody Payne (Boston), Mitchell Heard and Garrett Meurs (each with Colorado).
The Whalers played their opening exhibition games on the road in Brighton in 2009, Chelsea in 2010 and Farmington Hills in 2011. The games generated near-sellouts and a noticeable buzz in each building.
“Playing exhibition games in the community is a great way to help out local hockey associations,” said Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci. “The crowds are good and there’s always excitement in the rink.”
Lee Shifflett is the president of the Wyandotte Warriors Hockey Association and is working hard with his group to help make the game a success.
“The game is already creating quite a buzz and excitement Downriver,” Shifflett said. “We’re looking forward to the game. The rink was built in 1969 and about seven years ago, $3 million were put into renovating the place. Yack Arena is a great venue for games like this. We’re planning on having 1,000 people in attendance.
“Fans who come to the came will be helping us (Wyandotte Warriors Hockey Association), they’re going to be helping the Wyandotte Figure Skating Club that skate out of Yack Arena and they’re going to be helping out the Wyandotte Roosevelt high school hockey team. We’ve all partnered together to make sure this will be a fun night and a great event for everyone.”
Yack Arena is a short walk away from Downtown Wyandotte, an area the offers something for everyone in the family.
“Come in early and stay late,” Shifflett advised. “There are plenty of places to walk to from the rink, because you’re already in Downtown Wyandotte. We have one of the best walkable business communities in the area, with restaurants and bars and sights to see. It’s a great place to bring families and enjoy the night.”
In playing in Wyandotte, the Whalers are returning to their roots for one evening. From 1990-95, the Whalers were known as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors and Detroit Jr. Red Wings and played games out of Cobo Arena and Joe Louis Arena.
Back then, the team housed players with families in Allen Park and many players attended Allen Park Cabrini high school.
Plymouth (47-18-2-1 last season) won their tenth West Division title in 22 years and made the Ontario Hockey League playoffs for the 21st consecutive year – a current OHL record. The Whalers expect to be in the thick of the ultra-competitive Western Conference race in 2012-13.
After winning the OHL title in 2009 and 2010, the Spitfires went through a rebuilding phase last season and finished eighth in the Western Conference with a record of 29-32-5-2. Windsor is seen as a young team beginning to show signs of maturity.
The Whalers and Spitfires are long-time rivals going back to 1990. While the Detroit Jazz Festival entertains fans in another part of Hockeytown over Labor Day weekend, Plymouth and Windsor bring their own version of hard-bop to Yack Arena on Sept. 1.
Plymouth opens the regular season on Fri. Sept. 21 in Sault Ste. Marie, with the Whalers home opener set for Sat. Sept. 22 at 7:05 pm at Compuware Arena against the Belleville Bulls. Tickets for all Whalers games can be purchased by calling the Compuware Arena box office at (734) 453-8400.