NEW YORK -- One of the highlights of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was a spirited pair of alumni games at Comerica Park in Detroit. More than 30,000 spectators paid tribute to some of the greatest players ever to compete for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. Former players for the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils won't get to enjoy a similar exhibition, but that doesn't mean they aren't anticipating the upcoming pair of games at Yankee Stadium.
At a private event hosted by the NHL Powered by Reebok Store in Manhattan for York Heating and Air Conditioning, three prominent former players expressed their excitement about the upcoming games, in which the Rangers will play the Devils on Jan. 26 and then the Islanders on Jan. 29 as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
"I know they're excited and enthusiastic. I don't think you can be anything other than that," Islanders great Mike Bossy said of the current Islanders team. "Just after watching every outdoor game that has been played so far, it's kind of cool, and I'm sure they're extremely excited to be a part of it."
The two Yankee Stadium games won't just spotlight two of the NHL's great rivalries; they will also be important games in a Metropolitan Division where the third-place Rangers and eighth-place Islanders entered Thursday separated by eight points.
The Rangers should have an important advantage over their regional rivals in these two pivotal games, according to one former Blueshirt.
"I think for the Rangers, after playing the Philadelphia Flyers two years ago [in the Winter Classic], that's where all the excitement and nerves come into it," Ron Duguay said. "This time, they're going to look forward to it, they're going to want to play, but it's never the same as the first one, I don't think. I'm assuming it's going to be cold and it will be a perfect night. That's what I'm anticipating."
Of course, with former players attending the event, the topic of the alumni game, or lack thereof, eventually came up. There will be no such game before the regular-season games take place in the Bronx. Still, it's a part of the festivities certain players would love to see.
"I was hoping we'd have an alumni game. That would have been fun. I wish we could have had that," former Devils forward Grant Marshall said. "I think it's a great opportunity. I'm surprised it took this long to have Devils-Rangers or Rangers-Islanders outdoors. But it's never too late."