ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The NHL Winter Classic has become a marquee event for the sport of hockey, but the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic was always going to be different.
There was going to be a different venue, both in sheer size and design. The visiting team ensured there would be a different dynamic in the crowd. And when people woke up Wednesday morning, it was clear the weather was going to be a little different than recent Winter Classics spent in places like Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
Simply, Michigan Stadium delivered on its uniqueness in a demonstrative way.
"It was the best experience I've probably ever had playing hockey," said Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, who grew up this state and went to Michigan State, a blood rival of the Wolverines from the University of Michigan. "It was awesome. It brings you back to your childhood days when you were out in the back yard or playing on a pond. It was a lot of fun. I was just thankful to have the opportunity."
The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout, with the announced attendance of 105,491 making it the largest crowd for a game in NHL history.