Winter Classic sees record crowd at Michigan Stadium
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Accutely cold temperatures and a winter snowstorm weren’t going to stop a record crowd from seeing the Detroit Red Wings play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
The largest crowd to watch a hockey game, 105,491, turned out for the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
Wednesday’s announced attendance broke the previous world record of 104,173, which was also set at Michigan Stadium when Michigan and Michigan State faced off in "The Big Chill at the Big House" on Dec. 11, 2010.
"That’s pretty cool," Detroit’s Danny DeKeyser said. "I didn’t know it was a world record."
Said Toronto’s Tyler Bozak: "Right when we came out, someone had a sign that said, ‘This is history.’ It’s cool to know you were part of that, the biggest game ever."
This year’s Winter Classic proved to be one to remember, especially for the players.
"Walking out before, warm-up was pretty cool, lot of people here already," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "But even the bus ride coming in, seeing all the fans tailgating, overall it was cool. It was a great experience for our group."
As the sixth Winter Classic played, this was the first held at a football stadium with a capacity higher than 75,500. This was also the first Classic where the Red Wings played host.
"Fans that supported both teams, we were very appreciative for them coming out," Bozak said. "It’s cold out there, and they’re bundled up and having a great time.
"Thanks to all the fans. That’s what this particular game is all about. Hopefully, everyone had a great time."
The National Hockey League has tried to make the Winter Classic not just a game, but a full experience for all those who attend. Fan-friendly events were scheduled in an effort to showcase the past, present and future of the NHL.
"The league did an unbelievable job with the stuff at Comerica Park leading up and then this event," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Great, great crowd for both teams. Really good hockey game."
Even though most players grew up playing outdoors, it didn’t take away from the allure of playing at the Big House.
"The memories are going to last," Detroit’s Brendan Smith said. "That’s the biggest thing about these games — you’re going to take it to your grave because it’s such a wicked experience and being a part of it was just amazing."
Added Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson: "You know, when you’ve been out there before, it’s been on a pond or something like that, with zero people in the crowd. And now it’s over a hundred thousand, so it’s new for everybody."
It might be just an outdoor game to some, but the memories are why fans flock to the Winter Classic each year.
"For me as a coach, I was thrilled with the opportunity to participate, to have your family here," Babcock said. "To have so many fans, selling hockey. It wasn’t just today. It was a great week for hockey."