Biggest Cheerleader

Detroit Red Wings Superfan Heather Petrie

Story by Michael Seguin
Photography Courtesy of Heather Petrie

What comes to mind when you think back to your first hockey game? The blades scraping against the ice? The thump of players getting tossed against the boards? The deafening roar of the crowds?

Heather Petrie remembers octopuses. Lots of octopuses. 

“When I was 14, I saw my first Detroit Red Wings game in Florida,” Heather recalls. “We had gone down to Tampa Bay to visit my grandparents. This would’ve been March 1999. We saw the Red Wings play the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Ice Palace. There were so many octopi getting hurled against the ice!”

Heather has been hooked ever since.

“It was a great game,” Heather states. “It was March Break. Everyone from up north was there. It blew my mind that the entire stadium was dressed in red and white. It was like a home game—but at someone else’s arena!”

Heather works as an Operations Administrative Clerk for the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation. Although she was born in Windsor, Heather spent most of her early years in Thunder Bay, Ontario where hockey goes beyond a pastime—becoming a coping mechanism.

“In Thunder Bay it’s -40 in the winters,” Heather explains. “The year we moved there we got the hockey package on satellite TV. With how cold it was outside, there wasn’t much else to do except watch hockey!”

Heather has been a dedicated Red Wings fan for many years. But it was not until she moved back to Windsor in 2010 that she became one of the team’s most ardent supporters.

“December 6th, 2010 was my first game at the Joe Louis Arena,” Heather states. “I was super excited to go! My mom is disabled, so we arrived two hours early. This was back when they only opened the doors an hour before the game. But because it was freezing outside, they let us come in. They even sat my mom at this table where all these people were signing in, getting assigned jobs and heading upstairs. My mom struck up a conversation with them. That’s how we found out about the Red Wings Volunteer For ‘Em Club.”

The Red Wing For ‘Em Club is the official fan club of the Detroit Red Wings. Since 1949, the organization has endeavored to stimulate and promote a greater interest in the sport of hockey.

“It cost $25 a season to be part of the club,” Heather reports. “About a week before every game, they send out an email asking for volunteers, whether that’s for the programs, giveaways or the pizza toss. You can either respond to the email and offer your services or you can just move on with your day.”

Over the last several years, Heather replied to many, many emails.

“I volunteered at a lot of games,” Heather explains. “It was fun! You get this behind-the-scenes access. You get into the arena early. There’s a lot of fun events. Through volunteering, some of us actually got a whole tour of Little Caesars Arena as it was being built.”

Yes, Heather might be Detroit Red Wings’
biggest fan. 

And thanks to the Team MVP contest, it is official.

Earlier this year, the Upper Deck Company, a worldwide sports and entertainment company, began a search for the most passionate and dedicated fans of several National Hockey League (NHL) teams to be crowned the Most Valuable Person. Specifically, the contest was looking for NHL fans that have made a positive impact on their fan community and culture. 

“I saw the contest shared on Brad Galli from WXYZ’s Facebook page,” Heather recalls. “They were looking for each candidate to submit 150 words on why they thought they were their team’s MVP. I found it pretty easy to find 150 words on why I love the Red Wings so much!”

A week later, Heather received an email informing her that she was part of the final five.

“Everything really took off from there,” Heather states. “I went on Twitter to compete with the four other finalists.”

However, Heather quickly discovered that the life of a would-be influencer was more difficult than she imagined.

“I never really used Twitter much over the years,” Heather explains. “I didn’t have much of a following. I did everything I could over those three weeks to follow the right people, retweet and figure out the algorithm. I would share a bunch of different photos at different times of the day to keep getting the views. It was a lot of hard work!”

“Everyone on Twitter was very kind,” Heather states. “I ended up meeting a lot of other women who are interested in hockey. Since moving back to Windsor in 2010, most of my friends have moved on. I have some work friends, but in truth, the people that I’m hanging out with 50 nights a year are other Red Wings fans. So, it’s been hard, with the border closed. So, it was nice being able to connect with more Windsorites through this contest.”

Although the competition was fierce, Heather ended up winning the Team MVP round of the com-petition: earning her very own mock hockey card!

“It was really rewarding to win the Team MVP round,” Heather states. “Just being able to represent the Red Wings was a tremendous honour. And seeing my face on a hockey card was never my end goal, but it’s pretty cool!”

After winning the first round, Heather went to head-to-head against several other Team MVPs for the title of Ultimate MVP Winner.

“I competed against the winners from the seven other teams,” Heather explains. “The Ultimate MVP Winner comes with a $3000 reward.”

For the second round, Heather redoubled her social media efforts. And, in the process, she ended up expanding the borders of her own community.

However, despite a spirited campaign, Heather unfortunately did not take home the ultimate prize.

“Even though I didn’t win, I feel like a winner,” Heather stresses. “I won the Team MVP for the Detroit Red Wings. Before the pandemic, I was out there every day serving as their biggest cheer-leader. Hockey is my main passion.”

Once the new hockey season starts and the border opens, keep an eye out for Heather.

She is hard to miss!

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