Glendening settles for AHL outdoor game, not Winter Classic

Monday, 12.30.2013 / 10:14 PM
Corey Masisak  - NHL.com Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Luke Glendening went to plenty of football games while matriculating at the University of Michigan. He even played in the first hockey game there, The Big Chill at the Big House on Dec. 11, 2010.

Neither of those facts are the reason Glendening feels like he really knows Michigan Stadium on an intimate level. The reason he really knows the Big House is because of a fun little activity he called "running the stadium."

"Coach [Red] Berenson loves the mental test of it, so you have to run up and down, so up, over and down like a snake," Glendening said. "You have to do [the entire stadium] in under 15 minutes. After that you get in teams, so the older guys pick the teams, and then you have five guys on a team. There are three periods of five and you race up with 15 total up the steps.

"You can't walk for about three days after that, but that's the way it goes."

That's also part of the reason why Glendening was hoping to play in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday. He was with the Detroit Red Wings, appearing in the first 16 games of his NHL career, until Darren Helm was ready to return from injury and Glendening was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

Glendening did get to participate in an outdoor hockey game and he made the most of it, scoring twice for Grand Rapids in a 4-3 shootout loss Monday night to the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park. The game, a matchup of the AHL affiliates for the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, was part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival and the lead up to the NHL Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs on New Year's Day in Ann Arbor, Mich. (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS)

"It was special. It was in Detroit," Glendening, a Grand Rapids, Mich., native said. "I've been coming to Tigers games with my family and friends, so to get to play here was fun. Obviously we were frustrated by the outcome, but to soak in the whole experience was special. I was looking around a lot and just trying to soak it all in."

The Red Wings played Monday night against the Nashville Predators. There is still a chance Glendening could return to the Wings in time for Wednesday, but he's not holding out hope.

"No, I don't think I'm going to play," Glendening said. "Obviously it would have been quite an experience to play back where I went to school. I got to play in the Big Chill, and that would have been fun. Helm is a great player, and I'm excited he's back and excited to watch the game."

Glendening scored twice for the Griffins in the second period to help erase a 2-1 deficit. His first goal was from near the goal line; he threw the puck toward the net and it went off Toronto goaltender David McIntyre's skate and across the goal line at 11:22.

The second goal came in a slightly more conventional manner. He received a pass and broke behind the Marlies' defense before sliding the puck through McIntyre's legs. It did hit the post and come back, but it went off the goaltender and trickled across the line at 16:18.

"The first one was I was embarrassed to look at the scoreboard, but I guess they all count the same," Glendening said. "I was actually trying to make a pass and it hit his skate. The second one I got a great pass from [Brennan] Evans and I was fortunate it went in."

Glendening grew up in this state and went to its largest university. He was undrafted, but after playing four years with Berenson and the Wolverines, he signed an amateur tryout contract with the Providence Bruins in April 2012 and played three games before the end of the season.

He signed an AHL contract with his hometown Griffins for last season, and the Red Wings rewarded him with a one-year, two-way NHL deal for 2013-14. It was likely that he expected to get the call to the big leagues so soon, but the Red Wings have been decimated by injuries in recent weeks.

"It was awesome. It was a dream come true," Glendening said. "I know a lot of people say that and it sounds cliché, but I just remember dreaming and dreaming to be one of those guys when I was kid. My parents didn't push me to play hockey, but they were always supportive. They were there and my brother was there so to know they were behind me. It was an awesome experience."

Speaking of awesome experiences, Glendening has many fond memories of The Big Chill, a 5-0 victory for his Wolverines against archrival Michigan State University in front of what is, for at least another day or so, the largest crowd ever to watch a hockey game.

"I remember walking out there for the first time and it was just unbelievable," Glendening said. "I had seen football games there and one of the Michigan hockey conditioning tests is running the stadium, so I had run the stadium before and I'd been in a lot. To get in there and just see the place packed was unbelievable. There is no other way to describe it."

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