Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader took a break from his team's grueling, lockout-shortened season Monday to meet with fans and sign autographs at Meijer in Canton.
Abdelkader, a Muskegon native and former Michigan State Spartan, represented the Red Wings on Monday in a promotion with Meijer, the team's marketing partner as a line of fans wrapped around the store's electronics department.
Being a Michigander himself, the Red Wings forward said he enjoyed working with the Grand Rapids-based company, located near where he grew up.
"I'm pretty familiar with Meijer, obviously, and being local, being from the west side of the state," he said.
Fans also had a chance to fire hockey pucks at targets in an exhibit borrowed from the Red Wings' home venue, Joe Louis Arena, and play as their favorite stars in a demo of the PlayStation 3 video game NHL 13.
Abdelkader and the Red Wings face a grueling schedule this year in a lockout-shortened, 48-game schedule with plenty of cross-country travels on the horizon.
"It's not easy," he said. "I think once we start in March, we're going to be really busy."
Based on the throngs of fans who turned out Monday to meet Abdelkader, the team appears to have the support of Hockeytown die-hards.
"It was a really good turnout," Abdelkader said of the meet-and-greet. "It was good to see a lot of fans and everyone's definitely excited to have hockey back."
Abdelkader will make an appearance Tuesday at Meijer in Allen Park, 3565 Fairlane Boulevard.
Four additional stops featuring Helm and Abdelkader are scheduled for the months of March and April in Madison Heights, Southfield, Rochester and Warren. The players will appear from 6-7 p.m. at each event. The remaining schedule can be found below:Date TimeMeijer LocationRed Wings PlayerFeb. 12 5-7 p.m. 3565 Fairlane Blvd., Allen Park Justin Abdelkader March 4 5-7 p.m. 1005 E. 13 Mile Road, Madison Hts. Darren Helm March 6 5-7 p.m. 28800 Telegraph Road, Southfield Justin Abdelkader April 8 5-7 p.m. 3175 Rochester Road, RochesterDarren Helm April 9 5-7 p.m. 29505 Mound Road, Warren Justin Abdelkader