DETROIT >> You rarely hear high school football talk banter around an NHL locker room this time of the year.
That hasn’t been the case this week inside the Wings’ dressing room.
Danny DeKeyser and Justin Abdelkader have been going back and forth all week as their schools prepare to meet in the Division 2 state championship game, Friday at Ford Field.
“I think this is pretty rare, rather unique,” said DeKeyser, who’s a graduate of De La Salle.
“The chances of this happening I would say are pretty slim,” said Abdelkader, a graduate of Muskegon Mona Shores. “I didn’t know Danny went to De La Salle until the (state) semifinals and found out they had a chance to play each other. It’s pretty neat.
“They’ve been in the finals and this is our first trip,” Abdelkader continued. “It’s exciting. We’ll have to have some sort of wager on it.”
Abdelkader’s Sailors come in with a 12-1 record, beating Farmington Hills Harrison, 25-24, in a semifinal to reach this title game.
The Wings’ forward learned of Mona Shores’ win from his dad, who called him later that afternoon.
“I know a lot of the families from around there since I still spend my summers there,” Abdelkader said. “My sister teaches at the middle school there so she knows what’s going on and my parents are around it just living in the district. It’s really exciting.”
DeKeyser’s Pilots (10-3), who needed to win their final three games of the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs, advanced with a 31-7 win over Southfield.
“I’m sticking with my guns,” DeKeyser said when asked who would win the game. “I’ve got to stick with my guys.”
Abdelkader predicted a lopsided win for his squad.
“I hope we win,” he said.
The Wings are in New Jersey Friday.
Abdelkader played football through his sophomore year of high school.
“It’s a different game than hockey was for me,” Abdelkader said. “A lot of my buddies played. I started in seventh grade. Really enjoyed it, the contact, enjoyed playing. It was a lot of fun. We were successful in middle school, but not in high school. The team has come along a long way since we played.
“It’s a different kind of game,” Abdelkader continued. “There are 11 guys, so instead of having five and a goalie there was 11, everyone has to perform to be successful.”
Abdelkader was the team’s quarterback.
“First year we ran more of a veer option,” Abdelkader said. “Second year we ran spread so we threw the ball more.
“I enjoyed running the ball, but I enjoyed passing too,” Abdelkader added. “It got tough passing the ball as the weather changed. I remember one game when it was raining I threw like four interceptions. That was our offense, we threw the ball a lot. The ball would slip, it was muddy.”
DeKeyser never played football in grade school.
“I kind of wanted to get into it, but hockey takes up so much of your time I kind of just stuck with that,” DeKeyser said.
This is Mona Shores’ first trip to the state finals, while De La Salle has been there twice – 2008 and 2006.
DeKeyser was at Ford Field watching the 2006 game as the Pilots fell to Muskegon, 32-30.