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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Detroit Lions rookies quickly becoming hockey fans

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Michael Whitaker
Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

Detroit Lions rookies Jahlani Tavai and Amani Oruwariye have caught the hockey bug!

Tavai grew up in Los Angeles and had plenty of championship level hockey around him with the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 as well as the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, but wasn’t too engaged in the sport.

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“I don’t know anything about hockey,” Tavai said. “I grew up in L.A….I played my sports, I played the land sports. I’m not good with ice or skating.”

Meanwhile, Oruwariye grew up in Tampa Bay where the Lightning have become one of hockey’s top teams, and slowly started to become familiarized with the sport.

“I would say probably at the end of high school and going into college,” he said, “knowing that I’m going to go away, I kind of wanted to rep Tampa a little bit more, so really started getting into watching the Rays a little bit and watching hockey and stuff like that.

“So I got a jersey and went to a few games and that’s around the time they started actually being good and getting to the Stanley Cup and all that. So that’s kind of when I started exploring all of that.”

But both players now represent Detroit, and during an autograph signing at Pro Sports Zone in Livonia, the store owner decided to get the ball rolling.

“We did a signing with them and they just talked about hockey,” store owner John Yu said. “And I was like, ‘Man, this is Hockeytown. I’ve got to get you into Detroit.’

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“So I just custom-made a jersey for them with the Red Wings. I told them, ‘Pick out the size of the jersey you like and I’ll customize it with your name and number on it. They said, ‘Oh, that would be awesome.’ ”

Next item on the agenda? Attending a Red Wings game at Little Caesars Arena and getting familiarized with some of the legends who have donned the Winged Wheel over the years.

“Coming up here, I was just like, ‘Red Wings might be pretty cool,’ ” Oruwariye said, “because I saw a (Chris Brown) concert at Little Caesars Arena and I was imagining, OK, hockey playing here could be a good atmosphere. So I’ll see if I can check out a game.”

“I’ll learn,” Oruwariye said when asked about his knowledge of former players.

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