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Red Wings Alumni set to face Yooper United

MARQUETTE — The eagerly anticipated charity hockey game involving the Detroit Red Wings Alumni to be played in Marquette is coming Saturday night.

That’s according to a number of Facebook postings and United Way of Marquette County Executive Director Andrew Rickauer.

He said doors open at the Berry Events Center at 5 p.m., special events begin at 6 p.m. and the featured game will be ready for opening puck drop at 7 p.m.

Rickauer said among the special events will be a sled hockey exhibition, and between periods during the featured game, under-8 and under-10 youth hockey teams will play exhibitions. Throughout the event, 50-50 and bucket raffles, chuck-a-puck and sales of team merchandise will be available.

This game could rival the Kraft Hockeyville celebration of 2016 as the area’s premier hockey event of this century. Hockeyville was played right around this time of the year with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Carolina Hurricanes playing a preseason game at nearby Lakeview Arena.

This weekend’s exhibition pits former players from one of the NHL’s most storied teams against Yooper United, a collection of local hockey talent.

It’s major sponsors, of which Rickauer estimated there are a total of 15 to 20, are Upper Peninsula Health System and Embers Credit Union, known as “Stanley Cup sponsors,” while the next level are U.P. Health Plan, Veridea Group and Miller Pipeline — the “Hat-Trick sponsors.”

The event is a major fundraiser for the United Way of Marquette County’s Community Investment Fund with tickets costing $20 per person. They can still be purchased online. While a spokeswoman at the NMU Ticket Office said tickets could be purchased over the phone at 227-1032 or in person at the BEC even on Saturday as long as tickets are still available.

In conjunction with this day to celebrate hockey, Marquette Junior Hockey is holding its Season Kickoff Party that day, including its annual Hockey on Third parade at 3 p.m. that travels a somewhat circular route along Pine, Fair, North Third, West Michigan and Front streets and avenues, beginning and ending near the Superior Dome.

While Rickauer couldn’t confirm the Red Wings alumni lineup — except that it looks all but certain that NHL Hall of Famer Mickey Redmond will play — he did point to the group’s website for some possible names. The Red Wings’ group is listed as the largest and most active of any NHL team.

The group’s website, found at www.nhl.com/redwings/team/alumni-association, lists seven alumni members as NHL Hall of Famers — Redmond along with Alex Delvecchio, Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Igor Larionov and Mike Ilitch.

Then there’s another 30 listed as former Red Wings players, 26 more as players from other NHL teams, 11 as “professional players” and 15 as “staff members.”

That makes a total of 89, a few more than would fit on any hockey arena’s team bench.

Of the former Red Wings, the most intriguing name is Dallas Drake, who is also a former Northern Michigan University great. He could be a possibility to play on either team if he’s here Saturday.

Other ex-Red Wings on the alumni group’s member list that stood out to this writer are Darren McCarty, Chris Osgood, Kris Draper, Jimmy Carson, Darren Eliot, Dennis Hextall, Petr Klima, Joe Kocur, Kirk Maltby, Ed Mio and John Ogrodnick.

Redmond is the Bally Sports Detroit principal color commentator for Red Wings’ games on the cable network, while Osgood and Murphy are regular studio commentators who also fill in for Redmond at times calling game action.

The list of other NHL players includes Al Iafrate, Kip Miller, Brian Rolston and Bryan Smolinski, with the last three having connections with the University of Michigan and Michigan State collegiate programs.

The Red Wings alumni contact information also lists its board of directors with Kocur as president, Murphy as vice president, Paul MacKinnon as treasurer and George Bowman as secretary and events coordinator.

Its members-at-large list is Redmond, Ciccarelli, Draper, McCarty, Mio, Ogrodnick and Wayne Presley.

It’s a group that meets year-round to raise money for charities while playing games around Michigan and Ontario.

For the Yooper United local team, Rickauer mentioned a few players, including ex-Boston Bruin Justin Florek, Ryan Riipi, Kevin Thompson and Wolff and Neeco Belanger. It’s expected the lineup will be filled out by former NMU, high school and junior hockey players.

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