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Wings alums said plenty after Game 1 win

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – Game 1 of the Alumni Showdown doubleheader started with a whimper but ended with a flurry as 21 former Red Wings joined forces to defeat a group of former Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-4, in an outdoor battle at Comerica Park.

Five different skaters – Jiri Fischer, Kevin Miller, Petr Klima, Pat Verbeek and Aaron Ward – scored for the former Red Wings, while goalies Eddie Mio and Kevin Hodson sharing in the goaltending duties.

Miller, Ward, Fischer, Jimmy Carson, Mathieu Schnieder, Jason Woolley and Martin Lapointe had one assist each during the 40-minute game that was played in two halves.

With more than 33,000 fans in attendance soaking up the amazing atmosphere inside the frigid ballpark, the players enjoyed their once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here is what all 21 players, and coach Scotty Bowman, had to say after the game:


PAT VERBEEK (right wing, 1999-2001)

On what he’ll take away from the Alumni Showdown:

“Well, for us it’s a lot of fun. It’s a chance to kind of rehash old memories in a more lighter setting. The competitiveness is still kind of in you but it’s in a fun way.”

On Game 1 being more competitive than normal:
“Well, you don’t want to lose. It doesn’t matter what game you’re playing you don’t want to lose. We started cranking it up a little bit.”

On his specific memory of Game 1:
“I think the whole event was great. I really enjoyed the national anthem, I thought that was really cool and just playing with guys that you played with before and getting together again. That’s the biggest thing.”

And scoring a goal in Game 1:
“Yeah, and scoring that’s a nice feeling leaving the rink.”


STEVE DUCHESNE (defenseman, 1999-2002)

On his take away from this event:

“Especially when it started snowing there at the end it was unbelievable and brought back so many memories of growing up in Sept-Iles, Quebec on the pond and skating all of the time. I love the camaraderie and being able to see the boys again and do this outdoors. I’ll never forget it.”

On the competitiveness of the end of Game 1:
“I couldn’t believe it at the end it got a little chipping at the end. But that’s what happens when you start playing for fun and you think it’s just going to be a skate around and the next thing you know it’s 4-2, 4-3 and the guys started to get a little chipping. I love the way it is. You just can’t float around. You have to play hard, which we did at the end.”

On the 33,000 fans:
“Detroit is such a special place and will always be in my heart. Winning the Cup here is obviously something I’ll never forget. You come back and see the support and see that people remember you, it’s such true fans.”

On whether he could hear the crowd during introductions:
“Sure did. It was freezing a little bit, but it was great that they remember you. If they would have started booing maybe I would have skated off the ice.”


BRENT FEDYK (left wing, 1987-92)

On what he took away from the event:

“It’s just a great time and great to see everybody again. It was a great day.”

On being born and raised in Detroit and playing in Showdown:
You know the fans have been fabulous for the last week. We’ve been signing autographs for the last 3-4 days and they’ve been getting everything signed from tickets to pictures and jerseys. It’s amazing but that’s why they call it Hockeytown.”

On his favorite memory from Game 1:
“Just the whole overall camaraderie of the guys. To see the guys and get together and have laughs. Last night we laughed all night and I’m looking forward to tonight again with all of the Toronto players, laughing and joking. It’s just an absolutely great time.”


MARTIN LAPOINTE (right wing, 1991-2001)

On his thoughts of playing in Game 1:
“It was a great experience, obviously playing with my line with Red Berenson, who is 74-years-old and can beat guys on face-offs still. You can’t beat that. Just being around these guys is a thrill for me, playing outside with all of these fans was great.”

On this being his first outdoor game experience:
“First time. Ice was good, conditions were perfect. Playing with guys who played the game for so long, so to play with those guys was just tremendous.”

On being surprised by the loud ovation he received during introductions:
“To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think I would get so many cheers.”

On why he was surprised by ovation:
“I’ve been gone for so long, 12-15 years now. It was Mathieu Dandenault that said, ‘You really got a nice cheer for you.’ I didn’t realize it but at the end you’re like, ‘Wow! Those people really do remember.’ That was great and it was a sign that I’m really fortunate to be a part of this.”


KEVIN HODSON (goalie, 1995-99)

On his take away from the Alumni Showdown:
“Just being with the guys again and the memories and playing with so many highly-skilled guys and this crowd at Comerica; you can’t explain it and put into words. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

On playing with so many different generations:
“It’s awesome. Just the character and the tradition here and the history with all of the guys in this room and how they embody what the Detroit Red Wings should be. Walking around in here I’m a little awestruck myself and just to be a part of this is a real humbling experience.”

On his specific memory from Game 1:
“Probably that third goal that I let in when I went left and it was an open net. No, just walking out and hearing the crowd again and competing again. A lot of us haven’t played or competed in about eight years, so just to see the crowd and walking out onto the ice and having the national anthem again that’s pretty exciting. Being a part of this is just awesome.”

On goalie line changes between him and Eddie Mio:
“I told Eddie, ‘We’re not as fast as we used to be so this has to be a calculated line change.’ We wanted to try it. We were on national TV so we wanted to try the line changes and it worked out.”

On being at a disadvantage without their third goalie, Ken Holland:
“I know, but it was fun. We saw Ozzie and Manny when we came in after the first period and they were japing us on how we looked and everything else. Now we get to watch them and critique them.”


SCOTTY BOWMAN (coach, 1993-2002)

On Eddie Mio’s saves at the end of the game:
“Yeah, he really wanted to win that game. He was great.”

On watching guys compete as hard as they did in Game 1:
“It was unbelievable for some of them, really, like Red Berenson, who is 74-years-old.”

And he was winning face-offs?
“I know. It’s amazing.”

On being part of something like this event:
“We won’t see it again. That’s it.”


MATHIEU SCHNEIDER (defenseman, 2002-07)

On memories he’ll take from playing in Game 1:
“It’s just getting together with everyone, you know, for a couple of days. The game is probably secondary for us but I was fortunate enough now to play in two of these games. I played in the New York-Philly game a couple of years ago. It was just a lot of fun as well. I hope it’s a good experience for the fans but it’s certainly a great experience for all of us. Just getting back together with guys that you rarely get to see. I’m in a fortunate situation in my job that I get to see a lot of the guys all of the time, but there are a lot that I don’t, so it’s fun.”

On a specific highlight from the game:
Eddie Mio was outstanding. He was outstanding, kick saves, blocker saves, he was old school.”


GARRY UNGER (center, 1967-71)

On his highlight from today:
“It’s just the fact that you’re around and able to be with these guys. I’m a fan, so being out on the ice and just laughing and having fun. Just seeing what a great sports town this is was awesome.”

On his specific memory from Game 1:
“I just think it was the overall friendliness of every player. It didn’t matter red or blue, retired last year or retired 30 years ago, to see Red Berenson and guys I haven’t seen in 30 years. I saw Frank Mahovlich last night and Ted Lindsay and Gordie and then you go to the other side and see some of the guys you used to watch. It was just wonderful, great time.”

On the 33,000-plus fans:
“Just amazing, what a great sports town.”

On the crowd noise:
“If the play stopped and they announced a player coming up on the screen you would hear it. But once the game was on you didn’t hear anything, you were just playing. It was the same thing if you had an injury. We were saying that it was freezing out there but once the game started nothing. Nothing hurt, it wasn’t cold and there was no noise. That’s competitiveness, it never leaves.

“Even at the end there they were trying to tie it up, they were fooling around. Scotty was matching lines and he had his best guys out there and they had their best guys out there and we were playing. That’s the game.”

On the player introductions:
“That was really special because you were on the big screen. That’s when you hear the people, that’s when you heard the 35,000 people. It was pretty neat.”


EDDIE MIO (goalie, 1983-86)

On making big saves at the end of Game 1:
“It was a flurry. They seemed to have a lot of blue going around the ice and it kind of flashed back to the 90s when we played Toronto (alumni) and Chevy was in net. It was kind of the same thing. We were up by three goals with three minutes left to go and they kept fighting, but this time they scored in the last minute. All that was going through my mind was ‘No way!’ We got lucky at the end. Chevy was booed and I felt so bad for him

“Again, Toronto has that habit, especially their alumni.”

On Berenson wining that face-off late in Game 1:
“He won that face-off. That’s all I know.”

On his take away from Game 1:
“Everything, just being out there.”

On being tackled behind the net:
“Being tackled behind the net but Lou (Franceschetti) said last night that he was going to run me. That’s the way he played the game but it was all in fun. But I couldn’t get up. He got me on the bad hip and I was trying to get up on that hip. But my boys took care of him, Matty (Dandenault), Woolley. Those were my highlights. My D was awesome.”


JOHN OGRODNICK (left wing, 1979-86; 1992-93)

On what it meant to be a part of:
“First, it’s an honor to be a part of this. You’re talking about two of the Original Six teams. I thought the Red Wings did a wonderful job of setting this up with this whole Winter Fest with the tents and all of that.”

On seeing everything around Comerica Park this week:
“We saw a lot of stuff. We walked around and did some autograph signings for three days. The crowd, the people, they were very appreciative. Just a lot of great comments from people around here. Just being a part of all of this and playing in this game at Comerica Park it’s just some – let’s put it this way: I had my jersey signed by all of the hockey players to remember this event.”

On the importance of having a keepsake from the experience:
“Yeah, I was really bad when I was younger. I never used to do things like that but this time my wife made sure I got my jersey signed by everybody because 10 or 20 years down the line it’s going to be huge.”

On his specific highlight from Game 1:
“Not really. I think the highlight for me was when we scored and the crowd and all of that it just sounded like somebody high a home run. The sound was just so different. I think that’s what I’ll remember and of course, walking off the ice and having all of the fans cheer you.”

On holding onto the lead late in Game 1 for the win:
“I forgot about the phenomenal job that Red Berenson did on the face-off at the end of the game. He was strong on his stick and he did a great job. He owned him. I don’t know if it was Tom Fergus, but Red was awesome.”


JIMMY CARSON (center, 1989-93)

On being a hometown guy playing in this event:
“It was a lot of fun to be a part of with the camaraderie of some of your old teammates and seeing a lot of the different generations, I mean, as a kid I remember Garry Unger and Red Berenson. I don’t know how old they are but it was great seeing them out there. It was great, the setting, a big crowd and playing against the Maple Leafs, it was a wonderful experience, and of course, being a hometown kid in front of a lot of family and friends, was special.”

On assisting on Aaron Ward’s game-winner:
“I had the puck and went wide left and threw it out and it went to Fischer who passed it to Ward who popped it in. At least that’s what I remember.”

On whether it’s hard to let go of that competitiveness:
“We wanted to win, no question about it. They wanted to win too, but it was fun. We’ve been skating for a while to get ready for this, not so much to win, but for – at least from my point not having skated in more than a year – you don’t want to go out there and get injured.”


MIKE KNUBLE (right wing, 1996-98)

On playing with his old college coach, Red Berenson:
“To be in shape and to be as healthy as he is, even when I was there is physical fitness was a priority to him. He was always the skinniest guy, but he always took the attitude of ‘How can I tell my players to be in shape when I’m not in shape?’ He was absolutely leading by example when we were playing there and it’s great that he hasn’t changed a bit.”

On his first outdoor game:
“No, I played in a real game in Pittsburgh when I was with Washington.”

On how fun an alumni game is versus an outdoor league game:
“Yeah, zero stress in this one. The last one we were delayed with the weather when it was raining and damp. There were question on how the ice was going to be and all of that. So it was a little bit of a trying time because you didn’t know if you were going, or not going. To be blessed with the weather that we had today was fantastic.”

On his particular memory of Game 1:
“I remember I had a breakaway and didn’t score. I know better than that. You’ve got to lift the puck up but it was fun. I know I wish it was longer. I think a lot of us felt that we could have played another period. They went through all of the trouble of putting the rink in, so let us play.”


DALLAS DRAKE (right wing, 1992-94; 2007-08)

On his take away moment from the event:
“For me it was just being around guys I haven’t been around in a while, even guys who you played against in Toronto, to see some faces that you haven’t seen in a few years. The atmosphere was very special.”

On the 33,000 fans:
“That’s a credit to Hockeytown and some great fans here, and I know there were a lot of Toronto people who came across as well. Detroit really supports this team better than anybody and they deserve it.”

On the pace of the game picking up in second period:
“You’re competitive juices definitely come out in the last 6-7 minutes. You could see they were trying to pour it on to try and get back into the game. You could definitely see the pace pick up.”

On guys losing a step, but not their shots, like Tom Fergus, who scored on a big shot:
“I remember watching him as a kid and he always had an unbelievable shot and can still fire it. Most of the time your shots not going to get as bad as your legs.”


DENNIS POLONICH (center, 1974-81; 1982-83)

On his highlight from the game:
“I think the overall thing. We skated the other day and guys were scoring goals and not once did anyone say, ‘What’s the score?’ We just played like kids and it was the overall thing like sitting on the bench and looking up in the stands and seeing all of the people with the different jerseys on. And then when we took the team picture it probably gave me some goose bumps when you look around and see the history of all of these guys on both Toronto and Detroit teams. It’s an incredible feeling, it really is.”

On the pace picking up in Game 1:
“Well, that’s the competitive juices. It doesn’t matter how old we are, that’s what we did for a living and obviously when the game was on the line guys picked it up and it was interesting. We certainly know how to compete.”


KEVIN MILLER (center, 1991-92; 2003)

On producing three points, a goal and two assists:
“It was just fun being out there. At least it was a little slow and a little cold but it heated up and the pace picked up. It was just great to be out there with everybody and it was a lot of fun.”

On the Maple Leafs not quitting:
“We knew at some point the game would pick up the pace and that’s part of being a hockey player. You have competitiveness in you and so it wouldn’t matter who was down or who was up. It was going to pick up sooner than later. You could just see the last 14 seconds how hard everybody played. It was expected but a lot of fun.”

On wanting to play a third period:
“Yeah, we could have kept playing. It was such a great venue and it was awesome playing out in that atmosphere. You kind of forget about the TVs and the crowd and you’re just out there playing like the old days on the pond and just having a lot of fun.”

On talking to his cousin, Ryan Miller, about playing outdoors:
“No, actually, I missed the Cold War. I was just overseas at the time, so this was the first time for me in one of these events. I was looking forward to it and it was everything that I expected. It was great.”

On another cousin, Drew Miller, playing in the 2014 Winter Classic:
“He’ll have a great time and of course those points mean something. They’re going to have to play hard right from the beginning. They need the points but again, it’s going to be a great atmosphere, a great venue and I’m planning on going down there with my daughter. We’re looking forward to just having a great time down there.”

On his specific memory from Alumni Showdown:
“Just being out there and skating around with the guys and guys you haven’t seen in a long time. It was just about having a quick chat with them and getting a couple of pictures taken with them, but it was just awesome.”


JASON WOOLLEY (defenseman, 2002-06)

On his assist on first goal of Game 1:
“It was good, just so much fun to get back with the guys and it was fun seeing the crowd getting so into it. Being from Toronto this was a really special game for me having played in this organization and growing up in Toronto. I have so many family and friends here, what a great experience.”

On feeling like a kid again:
“There’s no question about it. I am a kid for the next couple of days. I was nervous, I was excited, I didn’t know what to expect other than you kind of don’t embarrass yourself out there.”

With 33,000 fans and national TV audiences, did you have butterflies?
“This reminded me of when I was a young kid coming into the league. It was that type of butterflies. I was really nervous and it was really foreign because I haven’t done it in so long. But I’ll tell you want, once the puck drops and you’re out on the ice you’re dialed in on what you need to do and you don’t worry about what’s around you until you get back to the bench.”

On his highlight of the game:
“When I jumped up into the play, Patty Verbeek hit me with a pass and I put it through the seam to Kevin Miller and he went backdoor and we scored. It was nice to get on the board. It wasn’t a lot of amazing, exciting times out there, but it was very tight checking out there, to be honest with you. They played hard and didn’t give us a lot.”

On the last-minute threat by the Maple Leafs:
“They were battling, in fact, Barry Smith said to Schnieds and I to stay back on that last shift. So I know when Smitty says that we’re trying to close the deal.”


MATHIEU DANDENAULT (defenseman, 1996-2004)

On the experience of playing in Game 1:
“It’s been a great couple of days so far and there are two more to go. But it was fun to get back out there and see the guys and being paired with the guys that you played with. It’s like it was yesterday. It’s been over 10 years but to get back out there it was fun and the fans showed up and it was a nice day out there. It wasn’t too cold and it was a great experience.”

On what he expected from the fans:
“I thought it might be a bit more awkward because it’s been so long but it was just like right off the bat the same old stories, just like it was yesterday. There are some guys I haven’t seen in over 10 years and it’s was like yesterday. I stayed over at Paul Coffey’s house when I was a rookie and I think this is the first time I’ve seen him back. That’s 15-17 years ago and he looks the same and his wife, Stephanie, but it’s getting back to exactly where we left off and that’s the weird thing, but also the fun thing.”

On his highlight of Game 1:
“I played the Leafs last year with Montreal and I knew it was going to get pretty chippy there in the end and guys were going to battle hard. The level of intensity went up because it’s natural to us. You just want to win and you want to compete, so I was laughing at the same time but at the same time I was trying hard at the end because there was no way they were scoring that other goal.”


PETR KLIMA (right wing, 1985-90; 1998-99)

On scoring his goal in Game 1:
“What goal? I don’t remember now (laughing). … It was just a shot on net.”

On guys losing a step, but not their shots:
“Everything goes, I mean, I haven’t skated in a long time because I’ve been coaching kids and telling them what to do. We started skating 3-4 weeks ago probably 2-3 times a week and we got back at it. It was fun.”

On seeing old teammates:
“Seeing a few guys that I played with on different teams but it’s an honor to be in this dressing room with all of the stars, all of the hall of famers.”

On playing in his first outdoor game:
“Well, I grew up in Czech Republic so we had the outdoor rinks, but not for 30-40 years ago have I skated outdoors. … It was a little chilly but obviously Hockeytown is a big hockey town and so everybody had fun.”


PAUL YSEBAERT (left wing, 1990-93)

On playing in an incredible atmosphere:
“It was a blast, just playing in this venue, Comerica Park, was great. We were asked years ago to come down to Tiger Stadium to take BP and I missed out on it – I love baseball too – but playing hockey in this stadium was awesome. It was a good feeling.”

On his highlight of the afternoon:
“Just skating on the ice with all of the boys. Even against the other team because you played with some of them and against them.”

On winning Game 1:
“Well, you’ve got to win for sure. The best part of the game was Red Berenson winning the draw against (Dave McLlwain), 70-some years old and strong as an ox still. That was pretty cool.”

On seeing Berenson play alongside two guys he coached in college:
“That’s special stuff, right? That’s memories.”


RED BERENSON (center, 1971-74)

On whether he taught Ward everything he knows:
“No. Aaron was 17 when he got to Michigan, he was really a young kid but he had all of the skills and endurance and smarts to be a big time defenseman and that’s what he became. He was a physical defenseman, he could be a stay-at-home defenseman, he could be a rushing defenseman. I mean he could play at both ends of the rink and he proved that when he got to the NHL.”

On the special feeling of playing with two of his UM players:
“First of all, it was just an honor to be asked to play with all of these guys because most of them are all younger than me. But then what a bonus to be able to play with two former players who played for me at Michigan and we’re still good friends. So that was fun, though it was a little scary when I thought, ‘Geez, we’re playing with guys this young, I better keep up.’ But it was fun.”

On getting a chance to be on the ice at same time with Ward and Knuble:
“I was out with Aaron but didn’t get out with Mike. But we skated in practice yesterday and I get to see them from time to time. I see Aaron on TV and we got to visit here today.”


JIRI FISCHER (defenseman, 1999-2006)

On setting up Ward’s game-winning goal:
“We were coming down 3-on-2 and it was a broken play and I was kind of sliding to the left. There was a pass that came into the slot and I actually skated into it as I was waiting for Jimmy to post up when he skated around the net, but then it got deflected and Wardy came in on the second wave and popped it in with a really hard back hand.”

On scoring the first goal of the game:
“It was awesome and I really didn’t know what to do, celebrate or play it cool. Now looking back, it was awesome. In the moment I didn’t know what to do when it went in. Then the snow started coming down halfway through the first and then halfway through the second and the hockey picked up as Toronto really tried to get back into it.”

On feeling like a kid out there:
“Absolutely, and this is the ultimate for all of us. Growing up in Czech Republic there were limited opportunities to skate outside. We didn’t have that many lakes.”


AARON WARD (defenseman, 1993-2001)

On scoring the game-winning goal:
“It was a fun game, fun to be around these guys and enjoyed the time. It was awesome.”

On returning to the ice for the second period:
“It was such a surreal feeling being out there with the same guys that you played with and some of the guys you grew up watching. I was Leafs fan growing up in Ontario so to see some of those guys from across me was so much fun. There are so things that you can do in your NHL career but to be able to play with some legends, even on your team, I played with my former coach in college. I was joking with Mike Knuble, ‘You know your old when you’re on the alumni team with your former college coach.’ He was great and this was a fantastic experience.”

On Fischer setting up the game-winner:
“That was all Fishy. He laid it off, he’s my former roommate. He lived with me for a month and a half. He got a condo but was still sleeping at my house because my wife was cooking breakfast.”

On everybody having so many ties to players of different generations:
“Everybody has a story or even now with the things that you’re doing now. Some guys are involved in management, some guys are involved in media, some guys are still living in town and you see them at alumni events. But everyone has some sort of story to share.”

On being invited back to play in Alumni Showdown:
“It’s unbelievable. I’m talking to guys on the Toronto side and they’re just excited to be a part of this. You never plan to be a part of this once you retire and to be out here, you feel like a kid again. Until you get back in the locker room and you realize how bad you feel.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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