WATCH: Current Red Wings share memories of Mike Ilitch
6:05 PM, Feb 11, 2017
4:19 PM, Feb 13, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WXYZ) -- Prior to Saturday's game against the Blue Jackets, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill and his players shared their memories of late owner Mike Ilitch.
"He wanted to win," said Justin Abdelkader. "It wasn't about the business side or making that extra dollar."
Abdelkader, a Muskegon native who played college hockey at Michigan State, was especially familiar with Ilitch's impact on his home state.
"For the state of Michigan, all the Red Wings fans, I think he made a lot of people in Michigan proud to be from Michigan."
The moment that stuck out most to Henrik Zetterberg took place off the ice.
"After my back surgery, he was one of the first to call in and see how I was," Zetterberg recalled. "That felt very special to me, that he wanted to prove how he cared."
Ilitch's caring sentiment was also shared by Niklas Kronwall.
"He came into the locker room before the season started, shook everyone's hand and said good luck," said Kronwall. "He would always show up once during the season as well. A very special owner in that regard. When you started talking to him, he felt like he could just be your neighbor. It felt like he really cared about everybody and wanted everybody to feel welcome."
Jeff Blashill emphasized Ilitch's impact on youth hockey.
"I grew up as a youth hockey player in the state of Michigan," said Blashill. "Little Caesars youth hockey was the crown jewel in Michigan, and his sponsorship of youth hockey certainly had a huge impact on making Michigan one of the best, if not the best, youth hockey states in the country."
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