PLYMOUTH, Mich. - The rink is different, the roster is a collective group of new and old, and the start date is four months overdue.
Training camp began Sunday, and while it was a long time coming for the Red Wings, to them, it was just like coming home.
"We've been looking forward to this for a while now. We were really fired up to come here today," Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg said.
Head coach Mike Babcock said he realized being at the rink was something he and others in the game too often take for granted.
"Listen, we're ecstatic to come back, to have an opportunity to play. When you do something you love, I told the guys this morning, I really missed them," he said.
The Red Wings hit the ice with nearly a full roster. Pavel Datsyuk will return from Russia on Monday and forward Darren Helm sat out with a pulled muscle in his back. Babcock said the MRI on Helm showed nothing and he is day-today.
Every other player joined together for the first time before embarking on a much quicker timeline than usual. It's a challenge they not only accept, but embrace.
"Having five days of training camp, for most of the guys, it's a positive thing. I think it's almost better," Zetterberg said. "Every team has the same five days, then it's on to the regular season."
Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, signed by Detroit before the lockout, said the feeling of jamming in preseason preparations into 120 hours is almost a relief.
"It's kind of like we're getting traded. It's almost a good thing because you sit out for this long, the last thing you want is more than a couple days to get going," he explained.
The familiar sounds of skates hitting the ice and sticks hitting pucks replaced the torture of hearing words like "proposal," "veto," and "bargaining." Niklas Kronwall was one of the many players elated at the prospect of not hearing those words for a long time.
"It's great to be back," he said. "That's for sure."
Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli .
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