Derek Lalonde was wearing a Buffalo Bills helmet in his office the other day, “running some play-options” against invisible defenders. We’ve all been there. A native of upstate New York, Lalonde has mentioned the Bills so often in recent interviews that his favorite team gifted him the helmet. The gridiron claims a lot of airspace in the Red Wings’ locker room, where Lalonde said Friday, “We’ve even got some of the Euros to watch college football here.”
It’s not just the team’s head coach. University of Michigan products Dylan Larkin and Andrew Copp both rep the Wolverines with pride, and Copp was a star quarterback at Ann Arbor Skyline High with multiple Divison 1 offers. Last fall, Larkin took then-rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond to a game at the Big House. After wins this season, Detroit’s player of the game is awarded “a football helmet with a couple inspiring words” on it, said Lalonde.
Two of the Wings’ video coaches are also Michigan alumni and such huge football fans, Lalonde said, that “it was a tough go here” when the Wings had a game on New Year’s Eve that overlapped with Michigan-TCU in the College Football Playoff.
“If there would have been a goalie interference (review), we would have been screwed, because those two were really invested in the Big Blue that night,” Lalonde laughed.
The Red Wings are a hockey team with “a little football theme,” said Lalonde. Which brings us to the Lions and head coach Dan Campbell. Lalonde said earlier this season that he planned to invite Campbell to speak to the team before a game, once the Lions’ season was over. Now that it is, Lalonde has set things in motion.
“I’m hunting him, man,” Lalonde told 97.1 The Ticket. “I’m hunting him. I want him, I like his vibe. I left a message yesterday. I don’t know Dan, but I’m no different than anyone else, I watch his interviews, I get inspired. I watched ‘Hard Knocks,’ I watched what his team did in the second half of the year … and you just love his personality.”
Lalonde said his PR guy contacted Campbell’s PR guy on Thursday to ask if Campbell would be willing to come speak to ‘Newsy’s’ team.
“And he told his PR guy, ‘Newsy does know I’ve only won 12 games here, doesn’t he?’ Self-deprecating, I thought it was hilarious,” said Lalonde. “Obviously he was on an 8-2 heater to finish the year, so he’s just fine.”
Lalonde wants Campbell’s appearance to be a surprise for the players. It would be the perfect pick-me-up whenever the team hits a lull. One way or another, the football coach from a cattle ranch in Texas will be speaking to Detroit’s hockey team this winter.
“I’m not going to let him off the hook, because I think our guys will like him,” said Lalonde. “I think it would be awesome. So you let him know, we’re coming after him.”