In late November, the Waterloo Black Hawks took an up-close look at the now Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues while attending an NHL game in Detroit. This article first appeared in the December edition of Hawk Tawk Mag-E-Zine, available exclusivly to Waterloo Black Hawks season ticket holders.
The game turned out to be a good one, despite a one-sided start.
The Detroit Red Wings outshot the St. Louis Blues 15-4 in the first period and pulled to a 3-0 lead by the middle of the second. St. Louis stormed back with three straight goals and the teams were tied up by 8:04 of the third.
Former Black Hawk Zach Sanford was on the ice with the Blues’ top forwards, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, and – five years after he had been a Waterloo Black Hawk – the players who have followed his path to the Cedar Valley watched to see if the Blues could nudge into the lead for the first time.
But the man of the night was Tyler Bertuzzi. After 7,500 fans (including the Waterloo players) had received a bobblehead in his image when they arrived at the arena, Bertuzzi scored his second goal of the night with seven minutes left, settling the matchup, 4-3 in favor of the home team.
While seeing an NHL game in one of hockey’s newest and most extravagant arenas was a treat, the highlight of the Black Hawks’ stop in Detroit on the way to meet the U.S. National Team Development Program came the next day.
Waterloo players and coaches had the opportunity to take the ice for an hour on the Red Wings’ practice rink at Little Caesars Arena. Under the Stanley Cup banners which had originally hung above the playing surface at Joe Louis Arena, the Hawks relished the chance to sharpen themselves for a game just down the road in Plymouth the next night.
Skating among the amenities enjoyed by an NHL team might have been a rare treat for many of the Hawks. For Ethan Szmagaj and Patrick Guzzo, it was a return to their roots. Szmagaj and Guzzo were regulars there last season as members of the Detroit Little Caesars midget program. Little Caesars plays their home games on the site.
For all of the Hawks, players and staff alike, it was a glimpse at the environment in which they aspire to spend more than just a fleeting day or two.
Seeing Zach Sanford on the ice for the Blues the night before is a reminder how truly close they are.