Teammates lament Zetterberg’s decision
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. “
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.
Henrik Zetterberg announced his decision to retire from hockey on Friday because of a degenerative back condition.