Red Wings coach Jacques Demers had a “Late Night” Wednesday in New York. He went backstage to meet talk-show host David Letterman and gave him a Wings sweater.

“He’s a great guy,” Demers said. “I told him he’s the same way (in real life) as he is on TV. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s my problem with NBC.’ “

Letterman recalled that he owned season tickets for the Indianapolis Racers when Demers coached the World Hockey Association team for two seasons in the mid-70s. Letterman worked at an Indianapolis television station at the time.

“He mentioned a youth hockey night back in Indianapolis,” Demers said.
“That night we had a major brawl break out — youth night of all nights, can you imagine that? And he remembered that.”

Toby Cunningham, producer of Wings games for Channel 50 in Detroit, arranged the meeting. Cunningham and Letterman went to high school together in Indiana and later worked together in Indianapolis — Cunningham as producer and Letterman as a wacky weatherman who always was in trouble with the station manager.

“When he came backstage to meet us,” Demers recalled, “Toby said, ‘Hey, great show,’ And Letterman looked at him and said, ‘Bleep off, you know it was lousy.’ That made us feel comfortable right away.”

Before the meeting ended, Letterman was hitting Demers for tickets. He thought the Wings were in town to play the Rangers instead of New Jersey.

Commercial changed: Speaking of getting hit for tickets, the Dodge commercial that got Demers in trouble has been changed.

In the original spot, Demers is at a party where he is asked for tickets, presumably for a Red Wings game. He gives away tickets to the symphony, opera and finally to a Lions game, which the recipient wasn’t too excited about. Neither were the Lions. The Wings, who had nothing to do with the spot, apologized, and Demers demanded the commercial be pulled off the air.

After a bit of re-working, the commercial is back on the air. Now the final pair of tickets Demers hands out is for the Smurfs Ice Capades. The Lions should love that.

Notebook: Defenseman Darren Veitch missed Thursday night’s game because he needed a rest.

“The last couple of games, he’s looked a little tired,” Demers said.

Speaking of being tired, Demers said was concerned that all the ice time he has given Steve Yzerman was starting to take its toll.

“I worry about it all the time,” he said. “I try to give him days off from practice, but I have to kick him off the ice. He just won’t leave.”

Demers said he had reduced the 22-year-old captain’s ice time from about 28 minutes a game to about 24 by taking away some of his penalty-killing responsibilities. . . .

Gilbert Delorme missed Thursday night’s game because his wife, Diane, was scheduled to have a baby this morning, the Wings said. The baby will be delivered by Caesarean section. . . .

Defenseman Steve Chiasson will return to the Wings’ lineup Jan. 30 at Toronto, Demers said. In his first game with since being reassigned to Adirondack, Chiasson scored had a goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s 7-3 American Hockey League victory over Maine. . . .

Right wing Tim Higgins returned to the lineup Thursday after missing seven games with an injured left shoulder.

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