Emerging from the famous tunnel at The Big House to 105,000-plus souls in a swirling snow globe, Joffrey Lupul spotted a sign. ‘This Is History’. And the Maple Leafs will go in the book as the team that won the 2014 Winter Classic before, unofficially, the largest ever crowd for a hockey game. “A moment we’ll all remember forever,” said Lupul, who had a shootout goal in the 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. “It’s cool to know you were part of the biggest one ever. As far as the game goes ... that was pretty rough with all the snow.” Yet, amidst the white stuff, the Leafs showed they have the right stuff. Jonathan Bernier’s 41 saves, plus two more in the shootout, and Tyler Bozak’s game-winner silenced 50% of the Big House wearing red and gave those from Leaf Nation, many who braved hours of driving in the elements, the desired result. The hardy crowd, 105,491 to be exact, saw a toque-topped Bernier further solidify his role as No. 1 goalie, in front of a world-wide TV audience. Regulation goals came from James van Riemsdyk and Bozak, while Bernier survived a flurry — pardon the pun — in the dying seconds of overtime. “The second period was probably the worst with the wind coming at us, but the snow wasn’t as bad,” Bernier said. Bozak, who just came back from an abdominal injury with a career-best three assists against the Hurricanes, was his club’s best faceoff man, with a hand in both Leafs goals. He also lost his man on Justin Abdelkader’s tying marker in the third, but is well-ensconced again on the top line with Phil Kessel and van Riemsdyk. “We knew going in there weren’t going to be many pretty goals,” said Bozak. “The ice got pretty snowy pretty fast. They did a great job cleaning it.” After the forecasted five inches of snow began in the early morning, a SWAT team of shovellers were on high alert. The constant maintenance and extended intermissions dragged the game out to three hours and 19 minutes, with the flakes abating in the second period before returning in force in the third. Players and fans at the University of Michigan’s legendary football field devised all manner of tricks to stay warm. Tempertures fluctuated around minus-12C, but to be part of such an event superceded the conditions. “It felt like you were going back in time,” centre Jay McClement said. “With our (retro) jerseys and playing outside, it was old-school. The snow didn’t let up, so there was nothing you could do. It just added to the whole experience.” More than 40,000 of the pricey Classic tickets were sold in Southern Ontario and a rep from the Guinness Book Of World Records in a snappy crested blazer was on hand still had to verify the new attendance mark. The big prize for coach Randy Carlyle was the two points in the standings. It broke a three-way tie for fifth in the conference with Detroit and Washington and made it points in six straight games, a high-water mark since he replaced Ron Wilson.
Maple Leafs beat Red Wings in Winter Classic shootout
Toronto Sun | Jan 2