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Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Howard returns to savor Winter Classic experience

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Wednesday could be one of the most memorable days of Jimmy Howard's hockey career. Not too long ago, he feared it would not come to pass.

Howard will be the starting goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium against the Toronto Maple Leafs in front of possibly the largest crowd in the history of the sport. After the game, Howard could be named to the United States team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The American Olympic team will be announced at Michigan Stadium after the Winter Classic as part of NBC's coverage of the game. Reports suggest that Howard will be one of the three goalies named.

When Howard left practice 20 days ago with a knee injury, his availability for the game at the Big House was in question and his potential place on the U.S. Olympic roster was cast into further doubt. He ended up missing eight games, but returned Monday night against the Nashville Predators and is ready to play Wednesday.

"Yeah, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't [have doubts about being ready]," Howard said. "When the knee injury happened, it was [projected to be] 3-4 weeks. It would have been three weeks right on the date of the game. You know I have to give a lot of credit to our team doctors and to our trainers. We worked extremely hard to get the knee back healthy and we were able to accomplish that."

Fischer scores one final time for Red Wings

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

DETROIT -- There's not a day that passes that Jiri Fischer doesn't realize how fortunate he is to be alive and still involved in the sport he loves, even if it's now in the front office rather than on the ice.

But Tuesday afternoon at a snowy Comerica Park, Fischer found himself back in a Detroit Red Wings uniform, skating with some of the biggest names in the history of the Original Six franchise.

It was a fairy tale indeed, and became even more so when Fischer scored in the first period of Detroit's 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first game of the Alumni Showdown as part of the festivities leading up to the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be played Wednesday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

"Do I celebrate? Do I not? Is it going to be embarrassing? Is it not? [But] it felt great," Fischer said. "That was maybe the last goal in a Red Wings uniform for most of us to score. It was a lot of fun."

Phaneuf signs seven-year extension with Maple Leafs

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis was convinced that a team would give defenseman Dion Phaneuf a seven-year contract if he made it to the unrestricted free agent market on July 1. He figured that team should be the Maple Leafs, and there's no reason to wait until the calendar flips to 2014.

Phaneuf and Nonis jointly announced the team captain's seven-year contract extension at a press conference Tuesday before the Maple Leafs practiced at Michigan Stadium in advance of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday against the Detroit Red Wings (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC).

Financial terms of the contract were not released, but media reports place the average annual value at $7 million. Nonis indicated that it's a market-value contract for a top defenseman who is 28 years old and in his ninth NHL season.

Glendening settles for AHL outdoor game, not Winter Classic

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."

Five Questions: Berenson a proud host for Winter Classic

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Red Berenson feels like a proud host this week as the National Hockey League has brought its marquee regular-season event to his backyard.

The 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will take place a block away from Yost Ice Arena, where Berenson, 74, has been a fixture for decades.

Berenson played his college hockey at the University of Michigan from 1960-62, garnering All-American honors in his junior and senior seasons. He returned to lead the program as coach in 1984 and has been in the same position ever since.

His teams have won two national championships, played in 11 Frozen Fours and competed in a record 22 straight NCAA tournaments from 1991-2012. Berenson has sent numerous players to the NHL and the graduation rate of his players has ranked near the top of the NCAA since 1984.

Marlies top Griffins in AHL outdoor game

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Spencer Abbott and Gregg McKegg scored in the shootout for the Toronto Marlies and goalie David McIntyre stopped all four attempts in a 4-3 victory Monday night at Comerica Park against the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The game was part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park in the lead up to the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Wednesday between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Grand Rapids and Toronto are the teams' American Hockey League affiliates.

2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by the numbers


ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A look at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® "By the Numbers."

0 Per stadium policy, zero bags are allowed into Michigan Stadium, including all bags, backpacks, purses, camera and binocular cases, etc.; fans should plan on leaving bags and purses locked in the trunk of their vehicle.

1 Cable cam that will be used in network coverage by NBC and CBC

4 Of the five most-watched NHL regular-season games in the U.S. since 1975 were NHL Winter Classic games

4.5 Approximate drive, in hours, between Toronto and Detroit by car

7 Number of times the Maple Leafs and Red Wings have faced off in the Stanley Cup Final (1936, 1942, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1963, and 1964)

Former coach Maurice recalls fun of outdoor practice

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- There are two reasons why Paul Maurice will never forget the outdoor hockey practice he held as Toronto Maple Leafs coach in 2008.

The frigid conditions that featured wind whipping sideways and a temperature that Maurice said dropped to minus-25 degrees Celsius, and the sincere joy he saw on his players' faces as they practiced in front of kids who got out of school early to come to the refurbished Withrow Park Rink just east of downtown Toronto.

Maurice is talking about those memories now because he's in town to serve as an NHL Network analyst at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday between the Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC). It will be Maurice's first time attending a Winter Classic game.

"It is just brutal and after about 15 minutes I could see it in the players, they're starting to get worried because it's that cold," Maurice told NHL.com, recalling the outdoor practice nearly six years ago. "I said, 'Listen, this is what we'll do, we'll drop the puck and you guys scrimmage for five minutes and we'll get out of here.' Twenty minutes later they don't want to come off the ice. It went from being a freezing cold practice to a shinny game with a bunch of grown men acting as kids.

NBC Sports crew prepared to call another Classic

Jon Lane - NHL.com Staff Writer

One month after the NHL unveiled the Winter Classic on New Year's Day 2008, Mike "Doc" Emrick, who called the game for NBC Sports, revisited the experience with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney. The Penguins defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in a shootout at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but Whitney fondly shared his emotions from before the game, when the teams came down the ramps and entered the stadium.

Fire was shot off, bagpipes played and there was the roar of 70,000 people. Whitney motioned toward teammate Colby Armstrong, ahead of him in line, and told him, "Take a look at this, Armie, and listen. This is a lifetime memory here."

The atmosphere at Heinz Field two years later still resonates with Pierre McGuire. A longtime League scout and assistant coach who won Stanley Cups with the Penguins in 1991 and '92, and current "Inside the Glass" analyst for NBC, McGuire wore his ice skates during the Jan. 1, 2011 telecast and after the first period approached Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby for an interview. Before heading to the locker room, Crosby told McGuire it was one of the coolest interviews he's ever done.

Windsor tops Saginaw in first OHL outdoor game

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

DETROIT -- Montreal Canadiens prospect Brady Vail and 2014 NHL Draft top prospect Josh Ho-Sang helped the Windsor Spitfires defeat the Saginaw Spirit in a wild 6-5 victory at Comerica Park on Sunday in the first outdoor regular-season game in Ontario Hockey League history.

Vail had assists on three straight Windsor goals, and Ho-Sang added two assists during a four-goal period as the Spitfires roared back from a two-goal deficit early in the second, but then needed a late shorthanded winner from Steven Janes after taking five consecutive penalties, including a pair of double-minors, in the final period.

The game was the first of an OHL doubleheader as part of the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival, a five-day showcase in Detroit as part of the lead-up to the Bridgestone 2014 NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium.

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