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ZMASH HIT: Ex-Red Wings stars catalysts for dazzling new sports facility

 ZMASH HIT: Ex-Red Wings stars catalysts for dazzling new sports facility

Owners of Zmash Padel, which opened Jan. 4 in Sterling Heights, are looking to expand to communities like Canton and Ann Arbor.

The rapidly-growing racket sport of padel — which offers an exciting blend of tennis, pickle ball and racquetball — is taking flight in southeast Michigan thanks to a contingent of ground-breakers that includes retired Detroit Red Wings Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall; and former Red Wing and current Nashville Predator Gustav Nyquist.

Zmash Padel, Michigan’s first padel facility and the largest indoor padel facility in the United States, opened Jan. 4 in a 40,000-square-foot converted warehouse in Sterling Heights (6635 Sterling Dr.).

Once the inaugural site builds traction, Zmash‘s founders have long-term plans to open similar facilities in southeast-Michigan communities including Canton, Plymouth and Ann Arbor.

Padel is played with balls that are like tennis balls, but slightly smaller; and with rackets that are similar in size to pickle ball rackets.

The courts are smaller than tennis courts, but larger than pickle ball courts — and there are walls surrounding each court, so players can play shots off the walls as long as the ball only bounces once.

Padel is played using a doubles format.

Plans to grow

John Courage, a Realtor for Social House Group, secured the facility after checking out multiple potential sites in southeast Michigan. Courage, who owns Bold Construction, serves as Zmash‘s general manager and marketing director.

Pictured are owners and operators of Zmash Padel John Courage Robert Kjellberg Henrik Zetterberg and Oliwer Jonson
Pictured are owners and operators of Zmash Padel John Courage Robert Kjellberg Henrik Zetterberg and Oliwer Jonson

The moniker “Zmash” is a merger of the popular racket-sports term “smash” and the first initial of Zetterberg’s last name.

The sport was developed in Mexico before spreading to Argentina and Spain. Its popularity spread quickly to Sweden, the home country of Zetterberg, Kronwall and Nyquist.

“After I retired from the NHL and moved back to Sweden (in August of 2019), I started using padel as basically my go-to workout program,” explained Zetterberg, whose entire 17-year NHL career was spent with the Red Wings.

Zmash Padel facilities include a relaxing lounge area with high definition TVs
Zmash Padel facilities include a relaxing lounge area with high definition TVs

“I loved it right away. Myself, Nik and Gus all played hockey in Detroit and we thought it would be a great sport to bring to Michigan because people around here are really big into racket sports like tennis, squash and pickle ball.”

A lot to like

Padel’s appeal is wide-ranging, Zetterberg asserted.

“First of all, the learning curve is very fast,” Zetterberg said. “That’s one reason I got hooked. I got better every time I played.

“It’s easier than tennis, in my opinion at least, because if a ball gets past you in tennis, the point is over. If a ball gets past you in padel, you can play it off the back wall, so there are longer rallies.

Zetterberg noted he also likes that padel can be enjoyed by a wide demographic and it’s great for burning calories, adding that a two-hour session for him is a workout comparable to an NHL game.

“For instance, my 8-year-old son was playing recently back in Sweden next to a court that had a clinic for people 65-and-older going on,” Zetterberg said. “It’s for all ages. It’s great for bonding with your family, too. I often play with my son and wife. Our chemistry (on the padel courts) isn’t always great (he chuckled), but it’s a lot of fun.

“It’s a great sport for socializing and meeting new friends, too.”

Courage, a longtime resident of Belleville and former soccer player at the University of Michigan, said the search for the perfect location for Zmash started in March of 2023.

Padel courts are enclosed so players can play the ball off the walls like racquet ball.
Padel courts are enclosed so players can play the ball off the walls like racquet ball

“The investors and myself visited four locations,” Courage recounted. “We visited this site in Sterling Heights last and their eyes all lit up when they saw this place. After we settled on this property, I visited Sweden to check out some of its padel facilities and then we started rocking and rolling on getting this done.”

“I knew it was not going to be easy to find an existing building like this, so finding one as quickly as we did was amazing,” Zetterberg said.

Facility is first-class

In addition to Zetterberg, Nyquist and Kronwall, the business’s ownership group includes Robert Kjellberg, Mikael Sjödahl, and Johan Lindfors.

Zmash Padel includes eight courts — the dimensions of each qualify the facility to host international competitions — a spacious lounge area, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a pro shop where padel gear is sold.

Plans to form leagues are in the works.

Zmash has two professional padel players on staff — Oliwer Jonson and Kjellberg — who will provide training to people new to the sport — and advanced players who want to sharpen their skills.

Memberships are available (click here to visit the Zmash Padel website), but non-members are welcome as well, Zetterberg said.

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Ed Wright

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