Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wings want Jets tickets

Helm, White can't wait to come home and play

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DETROIT -- They know it's going to cost them but Detroit Red Wings skaters Darren Helm and Ian White are convinced that hunting down and lining up tickets in Winnipeg will be worth it.

You'd expect nothing else from a couple of Manitoba products when it comes to the chance to play NHL games near home, even if it might be for the opposition.

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It won't be this season -- the Wings and new Winnipeg Jets are in opposite conferences and this year's one-off game was Saturday night in Detroit -- but NHL realignment scheduled for 2012-13 will have the Jets and Wings in the same conference and scheduled for five or six meetings a season.

"It'll be exciting to go back home and play," Helm, the speedy St. Andrews product, said Saturday morning at Joe Louis Arena. "I haven't done that in four, five years. I'm excited about that, if it all gets approved, and I'll be able to go back home and play in front of family three times a year.

"I won't have to make mom, dad, grandpa, brothers travel quite as far. I know my one brother hasn't seen me play yet because he's yet to get a passport. That'll be one less thing he has to worry about.

"To be able to watch an NHL game at home in front of a Jets and Detroit crowd, that excites everybody."

Helm admitted Saturday to having found a way to watch the Oct. 9 Jets season opener on TV.

"I wanted to watch the first game, the home opener, to see what the crowd was going to be like," Helm said. "I think I caught the first exhibition game (too) and I think that was a telltale sign of what Winnipeg was going to be like.

"But I haven't really watched the team as much. I don't watch any team, really, except for us, but it was really exciting to see how the fans were reacting and I'm definitely proud of the city."

Both Helm and White, who's from Steinbach, have friends in town this weekend to watch the Wings and Jets.

"I have one buddy in town and he's a hockey fan and he's been going to the Winnipeg games and he says it's just been unbelievable the way the fans have supported them," Helm said.

Added White, with a laugh: "They'll definitely be rooting for us, for sure. They're close enough buddies that they're not going to break straws over that."

White, a free agent who signed in the summer for two years and $5.75 million, has played steadily with Norris Trophy winner Nick Lidstrom and led the Wings in plus-minus at plus-15 heading into Saturday's game.

He, too, admits to keeping an eye on what's happening close to home.

"I've been able to catch a couple of games and obviously the city is ecstatic about their return, as they should be," White said.

"It's a special time. It's great to see the support they have and they've been getting and I'm sure it's going to continue long into the future. It was a good day for the NHL and a better day for Winnipeg."

White has clearly been a good fit with the Wings, not the least of which, coach Mike Babcock said, is because he's the lone right-handed shot among the Wings six regular blue-liners.

"We've talked a lot about Whitey this year in that he's not big, he's not fast, he's not this (or that), he's just a hockey player and he competes," Babcock said. "He goes back, gets pucks.

"I really believe that if you can have every lefty with a righty, you're way ahead. We don't have the opportunity here but he's helped us in that area for sure. And he gives us a guy who can play on the power play. He's been excellent."

White, for his part, is thrilled to finally seem settled after having played for three teams last season.

"It's a pretty special opportunity to get a chance to play with the Wings," White said. "The history here and the championships they've won and the culture we have here, it's a great locker-room and organization."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2011 B2

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