Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 7:47 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Van Riemsdyk creates new memories at the Big House

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Making his third appearance in the Winter Classic and his first with the Toronto Maple Leafs, forward James van Riemsdyk already had plenty of outdoor experience before Toronto beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday.

It may have been van Riemsdyk's first time playing at the Big House, but it's a building he was already very familiar with before becoming an NHL player.

As a member of the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team, van Riemsdyk lived in Ann Arbor for two years. While developing the skills that would one day take him to the NHL, he attended Pioneer High School, which is located down the street from Michigan Stadium. So it was slightly surreal to prepare to play in a game at the stadium as hundreds of revelers tailgated in the Pioneer High School parking lot.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 6:58 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Buzzer in OT a buzz kill for Red Wings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Perhaps the outcome would have been different for Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit Red Wings had they not had to change sides halfway through overtime Wednesday.

Playing in snowy, windy conditions at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs took turns skating into the wind during the overtime period. As the game clock wound down to 2:30 in the overtime session, Zetterberg poked a loose puck in the neutral zone past Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson and appeared to be set to go in on a breakaway.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 2:57 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Actor Perry enjoying Winter Classic experience

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Actor Matthew Perry is used to grand spectacles. The famous actor is accustomed to the glitz and grandiosity that can occasionally come with film premieres and award shows. Still, none of it prepared him for what he's experienced this week at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

"It's such an overload, it's too much. I don't even know the score in the game, there's too much going on," Perry said while attending the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. "I went to the alumni game [Tuesday]. It was fun seeing those guys. A lot of them look like they haven't lost a step."

A diehard Los Angeles Kings fan, Perry is used to attending big sporting events. He was a fixture at Staples Center when the Kings enjoyed a deep playoff run that resulted in the franchise's first Stanley Cup win. But he had never been to an outdoor hockey game, so when a friend invited him to the Winter Classic this year he knew he had to experience the spectacle firsthand.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 1:34 PM

By Dan Rosen - Senior Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Alfredsson in Winter Classic lineup for Red Wings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson is playing in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday, but center Darren Helm is not. Gustav Nyquist is playing in Helm's spot.

Alfredsson's status for the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was in question because of back spasms that prevented him from playing Monday against the Nashville Predators.

Helm was a late scratch after skating in warm-ups. He reportedly has a sore groin and is day to day.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 1:11 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Winter Classic a family affair for Jimmy Howard

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Since the details of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic were first announced, players on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings have been fielding numerous ticket requests from friends and family. But for Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, the big game at Michigan Stadium will be a huge moment for his family that could potentially be made even more special after the game ends.

Howard lived in Ann Arbor while playing with the United States National Team Development Program as a teenager, so he'll have plenty of old friends in attendance. But the Big House will also host four generations of Howard's family for the Winter Classic. Howard's grandfather, James Howard I, will be in attendance, along with his father, James Howard II, and his two-year-old son, James Howard IV.

For Grandpa Howard, known as J-one among friends and family, it's an incredible event that he didn't exactly envision when the Detroit goalie was a child. A wrestling coach at Oswego State University in western New York, the eldest Howard had different plans for J-three.

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 12:36 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Tailgaters go all out for Winter Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan is used to hosting tailgaters for Wolverines football games every year, but the Michigan Stadium grounds usually lie dormant on New Year's Day. So it was quite a scene to see the area surrounding the stadium suddenly flooded with countless hockey fans who packed up the RV, set up the grill and, in some cases, started a spirited game of floor hockey.

Clearly, it was the day of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, and the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs were just hours away from facing off.

"We have the bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers, we're going to do some nice burgers and we have lots of beer," said Windsor native Sarah Kilbourne, a Detroit Lions season ticket holder who is used to spending the day tailgating. "When we're doing the Lions, we change [the menu] week by week. This week we figured let's make it easy. We did burgers, hot dogs, keep it simple."

Posted On Wednesday, 01.01.2014 / 11:20 AM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Spectator Plaza adds ambience to Winter Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Toronto native Neil McNeil picked up his son at a New Year's Eve party at 2:30 Wednesday morning and immediately hit the road to make the roughly five-hour drive to Michigan Stadium, anxiously awaiting the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic to watch their Toronto Maple Leafs face the Detroit Red Wings.

Little did McNeil know when he secured his tickets that the scene would be as picturesque as it was Wednesday morning, between the live music and the fan experience at Spectator Plaza, along with a light snowfall. It truly is a winter wonderland.

McNeil, who dressed appropriately and topped his outfit with a referee's bathrobe, is spending the morning simply absorbing it all. The Spectator Plaza footprint included beer and food vendors, live music and various hockey-related games.

"This is perfect," said McNeil, who works for a couple of hockey rinks in Toronto. "We were prepared for the worst, but walking around today, it's very comfortable. If this is the worst it gets, it's going to be an amazing day. Little bit of flurries, but not enough to shovel the ice too much. It really lends to the ambience. We've heard about games in the past where they were worried about the ice being soft, [but] that won't be the case today."

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 8:15 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Domi enjoying retirement, start of son's career

DETROIT -- Tie Domi was a fan favorite during his playing days, when he racked up 3,515 penalty minutes in 1,020 NHL games.

Nearly eight years have passed since the 44-year-old played in the NHL, and Domi has moved on. Instead of dwelling on how much he misses the old days, he's turned his attention to his family. And while he won't be playing, Domi could find himself back in NHL rinks soon. Only this time, he'll be watching his son.

Domi is the father of 18-year-old Max Domi, who was a first-round selection (No. 12) of the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2013 NHL Draft. The 5-foot-9 center is in his third season with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League, where he has 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 30 games this season.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 7:52 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Red Wings linemates enjoy reunion at alumni game

DETROIT -- The Steve Yzerman-led Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup three times in six seasons. When numerous players from those championship teams participated in an alumni game doubleheader Tuesday at Comerica Park, it was a special opportunity to revisit those winning memories.

And on a team that was known for specific line combinations, it was a unique chance to recapture some of that old chemistry.

Posted On Tuesday, 12.31.2013 / 7:30 PM

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor / - 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic blog

Nieuwendyk has fun in Alumni Showdown

DETROIT -- Joe Nieuwendyk hasn't played in an NHL game since the 2006-07 season, but he was able to get the competitive juices flowing Tuesday.

Nieuwendyk represented the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, where the Leafs rallied from a 5-1 deficit before suffering a 6-5 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The 47-year-old was one of many Hall of Fame players to take the ice in the second game.

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