When a lockout between NHL team owners and players left the Detroit Red Wings' current stable of stars unavailable for an annual fundraiser, the team looked to its bench—its base of alumni residing in Metro Detroit—for help.
Chris Osgood of Plymouth and Manny Legace of Novi, two recently retired Red Wings goaltenders, stepped up Tuesday to ring the bell at Kroger in Plymouth Township to collect $2,797 for the Salvation Army.
Red Wings for Red Kettles, now in its seventh year, pairs Red Wings players staffers into teams of two around Metro Detroit to compete for bragging rights as the biggest fundraisers for the organization. Red Wings alums and staffers also appeared in Northville, Troy and St. Clair Shores.
Osgood said said he was a newcomer to the yearly event.
"This is my first time, so I'm kind of learning as I go along here," Osgood said as fans lined up outside the doors of Kroger before the event. "I rang the bell once in Plymouth downtown once, but that was with my wife and kids, so this should be different."
Osgood, who now works as a goaltending development coach for the Red Wings, said he tries to be active in charitible causes, especially with the free time afforded by the lockout, which has indefinitely iced the 2012-13 NHL season.
"With the lockout that's going, I've been doing quite a few things, not only around this area, but all over Michigan, he said. "I keep pretty busy doing that, and I'm enjoying it for the most part."
Legace, who retired when he found himself without work with the lockout after being part of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization, also found himself ringing the bell for the first time representing the Red Wings.
"We didn't do any of this in St. Louis, Carolina or Columbus," Legace said, referring to his NHL destinations after leaving the Red Wings in 2006. "It's a great cause."
Event draws Hockeytown die-hards
A steady stream of Red Wings fans filed through the front entrance of Kroger for a chance to meet, take photos with and get autographs from Osgood and Legace, who stayed past their scheduled time to accommodate the long lines.
Steve Branam of Maumee, OH, near Toledo, was first in line, where he arrived early and waited an hour and a half in the cold to meet two of his favorite Red Wings.
"I'm a big-time fan of the players," Branam said of Osgood and Legace.
Enrico Munafo of Macomb came to Plymouth with his four-month-old son, Luca, after meeting Red Wings alums Chris Chelios and Kris Draper at a bell-ringing event at Hockeytown Authentics in Troy.
One woman, Kristen Wiseman of Ann Arbor, even brought her cat, Ozzie, to meet his namesake.
Wiseman, who works as a veterinary technician, said a man brought the cat into her veterinary office inside a Kroger bag.
"It was the same day as Osgood's retirement," she said. "(Osgood) had a lot of people who underestimated him in his career, and I wanted (the cat) to be strong and perservere."
So, she said, she named him "Ozzie," after Osgood's nickname.
Red Wings compete for bragging rights
While Osgood and Legace manned the kettles in Plymouth, Chelios and Draper rang the bells in Troy, Detroit coach Mike Babcock and Ken Holland, the team's executive vice president and general manager, appeared at Hiller's in downtown Northville and Red Wings alum Kirk Maltby and radio play-by-play announcer Ken Kal collected donations in at a Kroger in St. Clair Shores.
Organizers suggested a $10 donation for autographs from the players and Red Wings staff.
Osgood and Legace joked before the event that they were specifically targeting Holland and Babcock, perennial winners of the yearly challenge.
The four duos of Red Wings personnel brought in a grand total of $24,438.69 for the Red Kettle Campaign.
Holland and Babcock again were the top fundraisers, collecting $13,462 in Northville for the nonprofit, which included an anonymous $5,000 donation.
Salvation Army Plymouth Corps Major Keith Bailey said the Red Wings' appearances play a big part in the organization's annual Red Kettle Campaign.
"It certainly helps," he said. "It gives us a huge boost. This is my first Christmas (in Plymouth), and this is quite the thing."
Bailey said the organization currently is on pace for its fundraising goals at the halfway point of its campaign, but still seeks bell-ringers and donations.
Those interested in volunteering to ring the bell to help those in need can visit ringbell.org to register.
This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. to reflect the total amount raised by the Red Wings.