Fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings not only lost an opportunity to watch their teams play outside at the University of Michigan in the 2013 Winter Classic when the league cancelled the event, they also won't get to see former players compete in two alumni games.
Since the Leafs and Red Wings are two of the most storied franchises in NHL history, this year's alumni games promised to be the best ones yet.
Last year's alumni game between former Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers players, including Mark Messier, Bobby Clarke and Eric Lindros, was played under the lights at Citizens Bank Park with almost 46,000 fans in attendance.
The alumni games don't have the same appeal as the Winter Classic does, but for the fans of each team participating in the event, the alumni matchups are a wonderful experience.
This year was supposed to be the first time in Winter Classic history that two alumni games were going to be played. Both were scheduled for December 31, and the roster of players who were expected to participate was quite impressive.
Here are some notable Red Wings and Leafs players that fans were really excited to watch.
- Sergei Fedorov
- Chris Chelios
- Paul Coffey
- Chris Osgood
- Ted Lindsay (as a coach/ambassador)
- Doug Gilmour
- Wendel Clark
- Tie Domi
- Felix Potvin
- Curtis Joseph
These players don't meet for special events very often, and I'm sure many of them were looking forward to playing alongside some former teammates for the first time in years.
Hopefully these guys will stay fit over the next year and will all be ready to play in the 2014 Winter Classic alumni games. The last thing the fans need is for some of these players to get hurt between now and next season's game.
It's unfortunate that a lockout would rob fans of the opportunity to watch some of the game's greatest players during a week-long celebration of the sport.
For fans who are too young to remember some of these great players, this is a rare opportunity to see their team's legends take the ice in a once-in-a-lifetime event.
These two alumni games would have been a great way to conclude an exciting year for the sport in 2012, but now Comerica Park in Detroit will be empty on New Year's Eve instead of hosting thousands of Leafs and Red Wings fans and former players.
The cancellation of the Winter Classic is dominating most of the hockey headlines at the moment, but for many fans, the two alumni games were going to be a memorable experience they would never forget.