Teammates la­ment Zet­ter­berg’s de­ci­sion

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY TED KULFAN The Detroit News

Tra­verse City — Dy­lan Larkin’s first en­counter with Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg was Larkin’s first day at Red Winsg in­for­mal skates three years ago.

Be­ing from Water­ford and hav­ing been a Red Wings fan, Larkin fol­lowed and ad­mired Zet­ter­berg’s ca­reer.

For a young player in the area, to make it to the NHL then get to meet one of the play­ers you fol­lowed and revered, it was pretty mem­o­rable.

“I hap­pened to sit next to him in the locker room,” Larkin said fol­low­ing Fri­day’s first day of prac­tice. “It was the only open seat. I was so ner­vous I didn’t say a word.

“I was starstruck at first. He in­tro­duced him­self right away. Now I can say we’re friends.”

Zet­ter­berg an­nounc­ing he was be­ing forced to end his play­ing ca­reer be­cause of a de­gen­er­a­tive back con­di­tion was the dom­i­nant story on the first day of train­ing camp at Cen­tre ICE Arena.

Af­ter a sum­mer of spec­u­la­tion Zet­ter­berg wasn’t get­ting any bet­ter and his ca­reer was jeop­ardy, there wasn’t ab­so­lute shock re­gard­ing Fri­day’s de­vel­op­ment.

But it was im­pact­ful, nonethe­less.

“He’s not com­ing back,” said Nik­las Kron­wall, Zet­ter­berg’s long­time team­mate and friend. “His back is not in great shape. I guess we all had some type of hope maybe he could get through this, but it is what it is.

“It’ll be dif­fer­ent. It’ll be weird, even.”

Kron­wall saw the pain Zet­ter­berg was go­ing through, specif­i­cally when Zet­ter­berg stopped prac­tic­ing the sec­ond half of last sea­son so he could save him­self for games.

“I don’t think peo­ple re­al­ize what he’s gone through to still play,” Kron­wall said. “It re­ally is in­cred­i­ble.”

Thomas Vanek re­mem­bers play­ing against, and with, Zet­ter­berg.

“What stands out is he’s not the fastest, but his hockey IQ is off the charts,” said Vanek, whose play­ing style is sim­i­lar to Zet­ter­berg’s.

“His last two sea­sons, he was still one of the best play­ers. The way he pro­tected the puck and made his line­mates bet­ter, to me that’s the sign of a very good player if you can make play­ers around you bet­ter.

“Z did that with many, many guys next to him.

“In his prime, in my era the last 14 years I’ve played, he was one of the best. He was still play­ing at a very high level and I’m sure he’d be play­ing at a high level this year.”

The kid line

The Michael Ras­mussen, Joe Ve­leno and Filip Zad­ina line re­ceived a good les­son over­all Fri­day, scrim­mag­ing af­ter a rig­or­ous 60-minute work­out.

“It’s a hard scrim­mage for those guys. They had prac­ticed and there was a ton of battle stuff,” Blashill said.

“But it’s a good les­son. You have to keep grind­ing, and they grounded it out and con­tin­ued to do stuff. “

Ice chips

Gen­eral manager Ken Hol­land said de­fense­man Mike Green (neck) has been cleared and will get into sev­eral pre­sea­son games, though Green might be lim­ited in camp.

... Justin Ab­delka­der re­turned to Detroit to be with his wife and the birth of their child.

David Guralnick/Detroit News

Hen­rik Zet­ter­berg an­nounced his de­ci­sion to re­tire from hockey on Fri­day be­cause of a de­gen­er­a­tive back con­di­tion.

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