Jimmy Kruzan is used to cheering on goals, assists and hat tricks. But at a recent Red Wings game, the script was flipped: a packed house at Little Caesars Arena stood to applaud and cheer Jimmy, a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

“It was really awesome,” he said. “I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

The Detroit Red Wings honored Jimmy for his service to the country as the “Salute to Service” honoree at the game. For 21 years, the Georgia native served aboard nuclear submarines, including the USS West Virginia, USS Maryland and USS LaJolla.

His time aboard the ships included tours in the Persian Gulf supporting military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan along with tours in the Pacific. He earned the rank of Chief Petty Officer during his time in the Navy.

After his time aboard submarines, he spent about a decade with the Navy training the next generation of sailors before retiring.

Originally from Augusta, Georgia, Jimmy now calls Monroe, Michigan home. After the Navy, in 2017, he moved to Michigan to start work at DTE’s Fermi 2 nuclear power plant, where he is a supervisor in the Nuclear Training department.

Jimmy is also an officer for VFW Post 1138 in Monroe and the chair of a company-sponsored veterans group at Fermi.

At the Red Wings game — alongside his wife, Lisa, and two friends — Jimmy said he was bit overwhelmed by the recognition. He said his seat for the game is always reserved for honored veterans, so those in his section knew he was a veteran even before being featured on the videoboard high above center ice.

“Everyone knew, so a lot of people were coming up to say, ‘thank you for your service,’” he said.

Then, when the moment finally arrived, he was surprised by an unexpected gesture: retired Red Wing Danny Dekeyser presented him with a military-inspired Red Wings Jersey, with KRUZAN printed along the back.

“It was such an honor,” Jimmy said. “My military service is an important part of my life, as it is for all veterans. We don’t serve to get a handshake or round of applause, but it is always nice and always humbling when people recognize your service. And this … this was far and away different than anything else I’ve experienced. The Red Wings really made me feel honored.”