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Greatest Moments

2014 Winter Classic holds special place, Red Wings say

Big House game among Greatest NHL Moments contenders

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

There are 105,491 reasons to vote for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic among the Greatest NHL Moments Presented by Coors Light and Pepsi Zero Sugar.

That was the attendance when the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout at the Big House, the largest in the NHL's 100-year history.

By far.

Video: 2014: Record 105,491 see Winter Classic at Big House

It is 34,274 larger -- a margin of about two typical NHL games -- than the second largest: 71,217 at the 2008 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, a 2-1 shootout win for the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.

But Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said there are more reasons: the 13-degree temperature at faceoff, the constant snowfall during the game, the 50-50 split of Toronto blue and Detroit red in the stands.

"It was just truly a Winter Classic feel compared to other games," Abdelkader said Friday. "I think there's no better Winter Classic than that."

As part of the NHL's Centennial celebration, a blue-ribbon panel of broadcasters from NBC Sports Group, NHL Network, Sportsnet and TVA selected 64 moments. Fans can vote on them in a bracket-style tournament with four rounds, semifinals and a final.

Round 1 began Wednesday and runs through Tuesday. The Greatest NHL Moment will be announced Dec. 16 at the Scotiabank NHL 100 Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa.

 

[VOTE NOW FOR THE GREATEST NHL MOMENT]

 

The big crowd at the Big House has stiff competition in its matchup in Round 1: Terry Sawchuk setting the NHL record for shutouts in 1964. But each part of the bracket is a tough choice, and many might be too young to remember Sawchuk's moment; let alone, say, the Toronto Arenas becoming the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in 1918.

Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin was 17 on Jan. 1, 2014, shivering in the stands at Michigan Stadium.

"It was cold," Larkin said with a laugh. "It was really cold. We wanted to leave because it was so cold, but we ended up staying till the overtime, shootout."

Larkin has Abdelkader to blame for that. Abdelkader tied the game 2-2 with 5:32 left in the third period, smacking in a pass from defenseman Brendan Smith on his backhand while fighting for position in front with Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson.

Here he was, a Michigan native, a Michigan State alum, scoring a huge goal on campus at the University of Michigan for the Detroit Red Wings. 

Surreal.

The sound was like nothing Abdelkader had ever heard before, or has since.

"Just loud," Abdelkader said. "It just seemed like the loudness just echoed everywhere. With it being such a big bowl, sometimes you would hear it, like, a second late. The noise would kind of circle a bit."

Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist has played in three NHL outdoor games: the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic; the 2016 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, a 5-3 victory against the Colorado Avalanche at Coors Field in Denver; and the 2017 Scotiabank NHL Centennial Classic, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs at BMO Field in Toronto.

He said the Big House was the best and thinks back each time he sees a photo of it.

"The game was so tough because it was snowing the whole time, which almost made it a little cooler, I thought," he said. "I mean, when the ice crew came out those three times a period, it was, like, you could build a ski slope with all the snow."

There might be only one way to match it.

"I think if they're going to do one again here," Larkin said, "I think it should be there again."

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