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Nieuwendyk has fun in Alumni Showdown

by Brian Compton

DETROIT -- Joe Nieuwendyk hasn't played in an NHL game since the 2006-07 season, but he was able to get the competitive juices flowing Tuesday.

Nieuwendyk represented the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second game of the Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park, where the Leafs rallied from a 5-1 deficit before suffering a 6-5 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The 47-year-old was one of many Hall of Fame players to take the ice in the second game.

"It's two great, storied franchises," Nieuwendyk said. "It was great to be a part of it, that's for sure. To see all the people that came out for an alumni game like this, it was a lot of fun. Glad to be a part of it.

"For all these people to come out to watch a bunch of old guys, I tell you, that was impressive."

Toronto allowed Detroit to build a four-goal lead before rallying to tie the game. Bryan McCabe forced a shootout when he beat Red Wings goalie Manny Legace with two seconds remaining.

"The beginning of the game was a little friendly, but once we started to get on a roll there, we said, 'Let's try and tie this thing up.' Sure enough, we did," Nieuwendyk said. "It was fun.

"That was a good way to tie it, with two seconds left. Maybe fitting they won in overtime in their barn, but we'll see what [Wednesday] brings."

Nieuwendyk was referring to the 2014 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, in which the current versions of the Maple Leafs and Red Wings will play Wednesday at Michigan Stadium (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). The League expects to set an attendance record in that game at Michigan Stadium. Nieuwendyk believes it will be a thrill for the players.

"I think they really enjoy it. It's going to be a great event as well," Nieuwendyk said. "These Winter Classics have been a huge success."

Nieuwendyk admitted he is envious of today's players, who have a chance to play in an outdoor game annually. But he's perfectly fine with passing the torch after a career that saw him play 1,257 NHL games.

"We all had our time, all the guys in here," Nieuwendyk said. "It's the younger kids' time. It's a young kids' League now. It's amazing the skill level that's gone up in the game today. [But] we had a great time, and it's fun to get together and talk about old times. But we'll leave it in the alumni games now."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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