Abel began by gathering all 77 candidates for his team together on the ice the first morning of training camp last fall. "This will be a new deal for all of you as far as our organization is concerned," he told them. "In 12 days I am going to take the best hockey players I have back to Detroit, and I don't care who they are."
Abel is a man of his word, and his players know it. The scramble for jobs became so heated that fistfights erupted during nearly every scrimmage. Abel boosted morale by making assistant coaches of the only two men who have ever played more than 1,000 games of NHL hockey, Howe and Defenseman Bill Gadsby. He formed a fast-skating third line of young hornets called the Kid Line, built an effective penalty-killing tandem out of speedy Val Fonteyne and terrier-tough Bruce MacGregor and redesigned his offense to capitalize on the added firepower from the points.
"It was the best training camp I have ever seen," said 13-year Defenseman Marcel Pronovost, whose own vigorous return to form is another reason for Red Wing success. What's more, the promise of the training camp has been fulfilled in the season. As he sat in the Red Wing locker room last week pulling on a pair of bright yellow cowboy boots, Howie Young summed it up in a word. "Management," he said thoughtfully. Then, elaborating, "Last year the guys were playing for their jobs. This year they're playing to win."