DETROIT — Hall of Famers riddled the Alumni Showdown rosters for the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
And none were more excited than the players themselves.
"I’m excited to see all the guys," Toronto’s Tom Fergus said. "There’s so many great players who played in Detroit … and some great guys out for Toronto."
The Red Wings’ alumni squad featured nine Hockey Hall of Famers, while the opposing Toronto team claimed five.
"To point out there are eight other guys in the Hall, it’s special," Detroit’s Larry Murphy said. "When people mention it — the Hall of Famers here — it makes me feel honored that I’m a part of that group."
Detroit’s Chris Chelios scored a goal early in the first period of the second game of the day, showing that he hasn’t lost his skill or his love for the ice, going for a backslide following his goal. The assist on that goal was from Igor Larionov, another HOF inductee.
Their teammates, current and future Hall of Famers, were impressed by their performances.
"It was great to see the lineup of both teams," former Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "Seeing some of their guys who I’ve never played against but seen them play on TV, I know how good they were back in the day.
"Same for on our side, too. Like Larionov still looked the same, still skating the same. (Brendan) Shanahan’s got that shot still. You can see that the guys are still competitive out there."
The recently retired Lidstrom has to wait two years until he can be considered for the Hall, but others have faith that he’s a shoo-in.
"Was it nine (Hall of Famers)? Ten plus Lidstrom," Red Wings alumni coach Scotty Bowman said.
Bowman, himself an inductee, explained that these players haven’t lost their skills — even after retirement.
"They still know how to play," he said. "I think Kozzy (Detroit’s Slava Kozlov), they didn’t want to turn it on too much. They’re still playing a bit, you know Kozlov.
"But it was nice for the guys. They like to see each other."
Even with the players taking part in the showdown mostly for camaraderie, both games still went down to the wire, and the Red Wings prevailed in each: 5-4 in Game 1 and 6-5 in a shootout in Game 2.
"You can tell the competitiveness came out," Lidstrom said. "They didn’t want to lose the game. We tried to win it.
"I think it shows we’re still competitive players, even though it’s an alumni game."
Any time there’s an event you can’t duplicate, it makes it so exciting.
Said Murphy: "We’re not playing for anything of any substance, but still we’re out there competing. It was nice to be out there with these guys on the bench again."
In the end, Murphy’s Red Wings came out on top in the nightcap, with all those involved more than happy to be at Comerica Park on New Year’s Eve.
"It will probably never happen again," Bowman said. "Any time there’s an event you can’t duplicate, it makes it so exciting."
HALL OF FAMERS ON ICE
Red Wings: (F) Steve Yzerman, (F) Brendan Shanahan, (F) Igor Larionov, (F) Dino Ciccarelli, (D) Chris Chelios, (D) Mark Howe, (D) Larry Murphy, (D) Slava Fetisov and (D) Paul Coffey.
Maple Leafs: (F) Darryl Sittler, (F) Doug Gilmour, (F) Mike Gartner, (F) Lanny McDonald and (F) Joe Nieuwendyk.
Along with the players who are currently in the NHL Hall of Fame, coaches Scotty Bowman (Detroit) and Red Kelly (Toronto) are also inductees.
Also in the HOF are Red Wings Ambassadors Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay, who came out to center ice to take part in the ceremonial puck-drop at the beginning of Game 2 of the Alumni Showdown.