DETROIT – It will be a homecoming for Luke Glendening Wednesday, as the center will return to his alma mater, the University of Michigan, to play in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic.
“It was great to be back on the ice, to be back in Ann Arbor is fun for me,” Glendening said. “It’s a little overwhelming, but I’m just trying to take it all in and enjoy it.”
Glendening spent the past two weeks with the Red Wings before he was reassigned to the club’s minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids on Sunday. The reassignment most likely meant he would be suiting up for the Hockeytown Winter Festival’s AHL matchup at Comerica Park Monday instead of the Winter Classic, but now the center will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in both games.
“I had a great time playing in the game last night with Grand Rapids,” Glendening said. “That was a special moment, special game, but obviously it was a little disheartening not to be able to play in this one, and now that I have the opportunity it’s pretty cool.
“I was driving home with my mom (from Comerica Park) and got a call from (coach Jeff) Blashill that I needed to be here by 11 today. I’m excited.”
Glendening’s addition to Detroit’s roster for the Winter Classic was necessary due to the team’s need for an additional center.
“Towards end of the game last night, Mike (Babcock) put Z and Pav together, and if we put Z and Pav together we need another center iceman,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “So having Glendening in the lineup gives coaches flexibility because we got (Darren) Helm, (Joakim) Andersson, Glendening. Glendening can play right wing if he has to.”
The Winter Classic will be Glendening’s fifth career outdoor game and second at Michigan Stadium, as he played in the Big Chill for Michigan against Michigan State in 2010. Glendening also played outdoor games against Wisconsin at Camp Randall in 2010 and Ohio State at Cleveland's Progressive Field in 2012.
The center played in his fourth outdoor game at Comerica Park Monday, leading the Griffins with two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss against the Marlies. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native is now preparing for his fifth career and second straight outdoor game, a matchup that holds a special place in his heart as a former Wolverine.
“It is, the fact that I went here and played a game here, at the Big House before, all of that culminates together and makes it extra special,” he said.
Glendening, a preferred walk-on at Michigan, finished his college career with 70 points, earning a career-high 21 points in 41 games during his senior years. The center also became one of only eight players in Michigan history to be named captain for multiple seasons.
“The thing about Luke Glendening, he came to Michigan as a walk-on, a recruited walk on with no promise that he’d ever play,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “He just wanted a chance with the team. He hadn’t been drafted, hadn’t been highly recruited. He made a mark every day in practice. He ended up being our captain his junior and senior years. He never led the team in scoring, but he was our leader on and off the ice. Now he’s showing that he can play pro hockey and now he’s in the NHL. He’s a good example for young kids that aren’t getting all the attention and aren’t draftable and aren’t this and aren’t that, but they really want a chance.”
Now, nearly two years after graduating from Michigan, Glendening will return as a member of the Red Wings for the Winter Classic, a game he never expected to be playing in.
“I was planning on watching this one on TV, excited to see how it turned out,” Glendening said. “Now that I have the opportunity to be a part of it, I’m excited.”
WINTER CLASSIC FORECAST: It’s going to be a chilly day for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, as the forecast for Ann Arbor shows a high of 18 degrees and a low of 13 degrees. Fans should also expect to see a few snowflakes at Michigan Stadium, as the host city is expecting 3-5 inches of snow on New Year’s Day.