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All Decade

Event of the Decade: 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium

Outdoor game between Maple Leafs, Red Wings in front of 105,491 fans selected as best of 2010s

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

Event of the Decade: 2014 WC

Event of the Decade: 2014 Winter Classic at Big House

Jan. 1, 2014, Toronto beats Detroit 3-2 in a shootout in front of a record crowd of 105,491 in Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor

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In the runup to the unveiling of the NHL First and Second All-Decade Teams on Jan. 24 (6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN), the NHL will be announcing its best plays, moments, events, coaches and team of the 2010s. 

One selection, chosen by and International staff members, will be unveiled each day in the runup to the release of the all-decade teams. Today is Event of the Decade, which is the 2014 Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings in front of 105,491 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Jan. 1, 2014.

The event of the decade came down to this.

Tyler Bozak stood at center ice at the Big House surrounded by 105,491 people, the biggest crowd in NHL history. The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs were tied 2-2. Detroit was 1-for-3 in the shootout, Toronto 1-for-2.

Bozak had nothing to lose. He knew if he missed, the Maple Leafs would get another shot. If he scored, they would win the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on New Year's Day.

"To be honest, I was probably a lot more excited than I was nervous," the center said.

The fans -- roughly half red, half blue -- buzzed as Bozak wove right, wove left, went to his forehand and snapped the puck past goalie Jimmy Howard.

The Maple Leafs won 3-2.

Video: Tyler Bozak wins 2014 Winter Classic with SO winner

The roar was like nothing Bozak had heard indoors, tens of thousands of Toronto fans cheering as he held his right arm aloft and grinned beneath his eye black. His teammates mobbed him.

"It was an exciting moment, obviously a special moment that I still remember," Bozak said. "I just remember coming down ... I'm not much of a deker in the shootout. I always kind of just look for a place to shoot. And got kind of lucky that it went in."

The NHL has staged 29 outdoor games and 12 Winter Classics. What set this one apart and made it the event of the 2010s was the sheer size of the crowd, classic winter conditions and dramatic ending.

To put the attendance in perspective, consider the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators drew 85,630 to Cotton Bowl Stadium for the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. That was the second-largest crowd in NHL history, and it was still 19,861, an NHL arena, short of the record.

The temperature was 13 degrees Fahrenheit at face-off, and it snowed.

"It was just, like, a perfect setting for a winter outdoor game that kind of reminded you of when you were a kid playing on the outdoor rink," said Bozak, who grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and now plays for the St. Louis Blues.

"I think it added a lot to it that it was snowing so hard when we were playing. They had to bring the shovels out pretty quickly, I remember, because the amount of snow that was going on the ice was incredible. Obviously it's not the same as a game you'd play indoors, but it was such a great experience."

The Hockey Hall of Fame claimed the balaclava Bozak wore to protect him from the cold. When the Blues donated a Stanley Cup ring to the Hall of Oct. 8, he got to see it in the archives.

Bozak, who scored in regulation as well as the shootout, has his jersey framed at his offseason home in Denver and still has bottles of wine the Maple Leafs ordered as mementos, inscribed with, among other things, the attendance. The memory gets better with age. They'll be toasting it for years to come.


Jan. 15: Save of the Decade -- Braden Holtby, Game 2, 2018 Stanley Cup Final

Jan. 16: Coach of the Decade -- Joel Quenneville

Jan. 17: Franchise of the Decade -- Chicago Blackhawks

Jan. 18: Playoff Series of the Decade -- 2014 Western Conference Final, Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Jan. 19: Game of the Decade -- 2013 Eastern Conference Final First Round, Game 7, Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 

Monday: Event of the Decade -- 2013 Winter Classic, Michigan Stadium, Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Tuesday: Moment of the Decade

Wednesday: Goal of the Decade

Friday: First and Second All-Decade Team

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