Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 14, 2013

Holmstrom, Chelios find place behind bench


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A year or two after calling it quits, hockey players commonly get that itch.

For Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Chelios, it was something that had to be scratched.

Chelios has been back in the hockey business for awhile now, helping out the Red Wings in various capacities. Holmstrom is trying to make the same jump.

"I've been watching lots of hockey lately, because I don't play," Holmstrom said.

Holmstrom, who was an assistant coach on his son Isak's Honeybaked Squirt A team to this year's MAHA state championship, noticed a big difference right away in coaching young men rather than boys.

"It's a big difference," Holmstrom said. "Now you can yell at them."

One thing he hasn't been able to convey to children playing hockey is to replicate his playing style of camping out in front of the net and making life difficult for the opposing goaltender — usually while taking a beating from defensemen, pucks and the occasional goal stick to the back of the legs from a frustratingly-screened netminder.

"You tell kids to stand in front of the net, and they don't stand in front of the net," Holmstrom said. "When the puck comes, they move. The puck retrievals around the net, moving the D around. It's more than just standing still and doing a screen. It's much more than that."

"I never thought twice about it. That's the big difference. I see kids in drills, they don't stand in front of the net. They stay to the side of the net. You can't do that. Even in practice, that's where you learn. You have to stay in front in practice, too."

Kris Draper — who can be seen around Development Camp as well — is in his second year as special assistant to the general manager, helping with player evaluations after a 17-year playing career in a Red Wings jersey. Jiri Fisher — whose career as an imposing defenseman was cut short due to a heart condition — is Detroit's director of player development.

Kirk Maltby is in his third year as a scout and Chris Osgood is entering his second year as goaltending development coach.

"I think the kids appreciate us being here and getting here and supporting them," Chelios said. "It's easy for me. I just work the D. No problem."

Chelios and Holmstrom coached Team Lidstrom to a convincing 7-1 victory in Friday's camp scrimmage. Right after the game, the recent Hall of Famer was asked who gets credit for the scrimmage victory.

"Homer," Chelios chuckled. "It's his first win ever."

Holmstrom and the well-tanned Chelios were on opposite ends of Team Lidstrom's bench during Friday's scrimmage.

"I don't want to stand next to Cheli, because he's so dark," Holmstrom joked. "He's so nicely tan and everything. I have to work on my tan here, I guess."

Chelios helped head coach Jeff Blashill and the Grand Rapids Griffins win the Calder Cup last year, instructing the team's young defensemen.

"My first year working with Blash and Jimmy Paek and Spiros (Anastas) was a good one," Chelios said. "We ended up winning the Calder Cup, which is great. But just to see the guys like (Brian) Lashoff and (Brendan) Smith and how they jumped up and did well with the (Red Wings). I think I kind of found my niche here, where it's good to just help a kid along and not have to make the decision on the kid's careers or who is going to be called up or down. Just to teach and develop the players."

Both Chelios and Holmstrom are working daily with the Wings' prospects.

"There's lots of good guys out there, too," Holmstrom said. "There's lots of good products to work with. This is perfect for me. I'm learning a lot from these guys who have been around a long time. I'm sucking everything in. I enjoy it. Hopefully, the things I'm going to tell the kids makes sense and it'll help them."

He hopes this could eventually turn into a regular thing with the Red Wings, but isn't ready to count his chickens yet.

"We'll see," Holmstrom said. "I've got to get through this week first. I've got to coach my two sons, too. I don't want to do any scouting. I'd rather be on the ice and do drills with the kids and help out."