Maple Leafs-Red Wings Preview
As the novelty of playing hockey outdoors seems to be wearing
off, the NHL is hoping bigger is better at the Winter Classic.
The league has been playing at least one game outdoors annually
since 2008 other than last season because of the lockout. The
popularity of the concept is being tested by putting six games in
the elements this season.
With a lot more fans and two Original Six teams, including one
from Canada for the first time, the NHL is confident the 2014
Winter Classic will be different.
”Those are two distinguishing factors,” NHL Deputy
Commissioner Bill Daly said. ”It’ll be special.”
The league said 105,500 tickets have been sold for the game
Wednesday between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at
Michigan Stadium. That almost doubles the average of 53,045
spectators who watched the first five Winter Classics.
If every person who paid for a ticket braves temperatures in the
teens on a snowy afternoon, a record will be broken.
In the same football stadium, known as the Big House, Michigan
and Michigan State set a hockey attendance record of 104,173 in
”If you haven’t been to a football Saturday here, then you
should put it on your bucket list,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock
said Tuesday after a brief practice. ”It’s the best sporting
event. I’ve been to the Olympic Games, the World Series, the
Stanley Cup. This is probably the best sporting event I’ve ever
been to, bar none.
”Can it transfer into hockey? I assume it can.
Some players will borrow a practice from football, putting eye
black on their cheeks to help cope with glare.
”I remember back to Wrigley Field (in the 2009 Winter Classic),
I thought it looked kind of silly when guys were doing it,” Red
Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said with black smudges under both
eyes. ”But it does actually help.”
And like some football games, shoveling might be necessary to
clear the playing surface.
Skaters with shovels cleared the ice before both teams practiced
on Tuesday and they might be busier during the game. A winter
weather advisory is calling for 4 to 6 inches to fall from
Wednesday morning through Thursday morning in Ann Arbor.
”A little bit of snow just adds to the romance of the game,”
NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said.
A lot of snow, though, and 10 mph wind could become a problem
for the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, who enter the game tied in the
Eastern Conference standings with 45 points halfway through their
”Cold you can deal with,” Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader
said. ”But if the snow is coming down hard and it’s windy, it can
be pretty tough.”
If gusts are a significant factor, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle
said the NHL will have the teams switch ends midway through the
third period so that both play into the wind for an equal amount of
time in the game.
Snow hasn’t been much of a problem in previous Winter Classics
because they’ve been played with an average temperature of 39
degrees on or around New Year’s Day.
A blizzard, gale-force wind and below-freezing temperatures
would not be enough to wipe the smile off the face of Maple Leafs
captain Dion Phaneuf one day after he signed a $49 million,
”I got chills coming into the building,” Phaneuf said. ”You
grow up playing on outdoor rinks as a kid. And to be able to come
here and obviously with this news being announced, to have my
family here it’s going to be a special game to be a part of. ….
When there are 110,000 people, it’s going to be an experience I’ll
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