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2014 NHL Winter Classic

After a one-year postponement due to the player lockout, the 2014 NHL Winter Classic put the “Winter” back in “Classic” after mid-40s sunbathing weather in 2012. The 2014 matchup pitted two Original Six teams with a rivalry dating back to 1927, the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.

Big House, Big Crowd, Big TV Audience

Before we get into the game and weather, words about the venue are in order. The NHL definitely went with the “go big or go home” approach, selecting Michigan Stadium as the site for the 2014 Winter Classic. Otherwise known as “The Big House,” Michigan Stadium is home to University of Michigan Wolverines football in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One word describes it: BIG. Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium (capacity 109,901) of any kind in the U.S., and second-biggest in the world behind Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (capacity 114,000) in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Certified paid attendance for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic was 105,491 (announced), making it the second-largest hockey game crowd ever. The largest crowd — the December 2010 “Big Chill at the Big House” between Michigan and Michigan State, a game that drew 113,411 (announced).

The 2014 Winter Classic had an enormous TV audience as well, with more than 8 million viewers. The game was the most-watched regular-season hockey game of all time.

Two Original Six teams and an amazing venue will do that.

Plenty Cold for Hockey

As is often the case with Winter Classic games, weather was a big factor in 2014. Basically, it was cold. At puck drop, the temperature was a brisk 13 degrees, with the wind chill making it feel like 1 below zero. Just to make sure the players and fans didn’t get too comfortable, the hockey gods added snow and high winds, causing the game to be interrupted a couple of times to shovel the rink.

Toronto Maple Leafs-Detroit Red Wings Rivalry

The first meeting of these two storied NHL franchises goes back to 1927, when the St. Patricks (now Maple Leafs) beat the Cougars (now Red Wings) on January 4. Over the years, they have faced each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 23 times. Most notably:

  • The Wings topped the Leafs 3-1 to win the Stanley Cup in 1936.
  • The Leafs beat the Wings 4-3 to win the Stanley Cup in 1942.
  • The Leafs swept the Wings 4-0 to win the Stanley Cup in 1948.
  • The Leafs swept the Wings 4-0 again to win the Stanley Cup in 1949.
  • The Leafs beat the Wings 4-1 to win the Stanley Cup in 1963.
  • The Leafs beat the Wings 4-3 to win the Stanley Cup in 1964.

The rivalry hasn’t been all Leafs, however: Detroit eliminated Toronto in the semifinals for five consecutive years in the 1950s. With the two teams only about 200 miles apart, the matchup has always attracted passionate interest from fans in both cities.

The Game

Because of the extreme conditions, teams were fighting the weather as well as each other. Nevertheless, the game was exciting enough to keep the freezing fans fired up. After a scoreless first period, Daniel Alfredsson gave the Wings a 1-0 lead midway through the second. The Leafs came back with a late second-period goal by James van Riemsdyk, and then took a 2-1 lead early in the third with a Tyler Bozak tally. With just over five minutes left in regulation, Justin Abdelkader scored for Detroit to make it 2-2. In the overtime period, neither team could score, sending the game to a shootout. After Pavel Datsyuk scored for Detroit, Toronto came back with goals from Joffrey Lupul and Bozak. Final: 2-1, Toronto.

Awarded first star of the game was Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier, who recorded 41 saves and a .953 save percentage. Second star went to counterpart Jimmy Howard, who made 24 saves with a .923 save percentage for Detroit. The well-earned third star went to Bozak on the strength of his regulation goal and game-winning shootout goal.

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic was one of the most successful games yet — even though the players and fans are still thawing!