Justin Abdelkader officially says goodbye to Detroit hockey fans

“All I ever wanted to be was a Red Wing. As a boy, that’s what I dreamed of.”

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Former Detroit Red Wings and current unrestricted free agent Justin Abdelkader has penned a farewell letter to Detroit hockey fans and, quite frankly, it's a bit of a tearjerker if you're a Red Wings fan of a certain vintage. Sure Abdelkader isn't the player he used to be and he was grossly overpaid as a result of a contract handed to him by former Red Wings GM Ken Holland, but you can't say that Abdelkader didn't absolutely bleed Red Wings red and white.

The guy is a Muskegon, Michigan native and, as he puts it, all he ever wanted in life was to play for the Red Wings.

In an article for The Players' Tribune, Abdelkader sends a sincere message to all Red Wings fans. Read below for some choice quotes.

On his boyhood dream of playing for the Red Wings:

All I ever wanted to be was a Red Wing. As a boy, that’s what I dreamed of. It was a dream I felt like I could reach out and touch when I was five years old and I was at the Joe Louis Arena for the very first time.
Now, though, my time as a Red Wing is up. But just because there won’t be a winged wheel on my jersey doesn’t mean I won’t always have a bit of Detroit in me.

On getting drafted by the Red Wings:

And yes, I’ve been in the family since I was five years old, sitting in the upper deck of the Joe, but it became real in the summer of 2005, when I was 18, sitting with my family and some close friends in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Muskegon, Michigan. Due to the NHL lockout, only a few players had been allowed to attend the draft in Ottawa. So we went to dinner to await the results of the draft. I was checking my flip phone obsessively, until the moment it lit up with my agent’s name. I picked up to hear those unimaginable words, “The Detroit Red Wings drafted you 42nd overall.”
My jaw dropped. My eyes teared up. My dad nearly fell out of his seat. I jumped up and shouted the news to the entire restaurant.
The place blew up. There was yelling and cheering from every booth and table.

His final message for Red Wings fans:

And to Detroit, our city, our fans: We’ve had ups and downs, there is no denying that. We’ve won and we’ve lost, but we’ve always done it together. And your support has been there throughout. You, the fans, have made me into the person I am today.
Thank you for taking a small town boy from West Michigan and showing him the ropes. Thank you for letting him grow.