Outdoor hockey is always a treat to watch, and it’s even better when some beloved veterans get a chance to play outside, like they will in this year’s Winter Classic alumni games.
Former greats from the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will square off in a doubleheader at Comerica Park in Detroit Tuesday before the current incarnations of the teams do so at the University of Michigan's Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Wednesday.
Read on to learn about the schedule, the teams’ rosters and for a preview of the matchup.
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013
Time: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET
Where: Comerica Park, Detroit, Mich.
Detroit Red Wings
Toronto Maple Leafs
This matchup between NHL alumni may just be a fun exercise, but it should still be compelling to watch.
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs both have plenty of history, so there will be ample stars on display when these teams take the ice.
It all gets started with the coaches.
Detroit will be coached by former Red Wing head coaches Scott Bowman and Jacques Demers, former assistant coach Barry Smith and NHL legend Gordie Howe.
Over on the Toronto side of things, former head coaches Red Kelly and Pat Quinn will head the Maple Leafs team.
Each team itself will be made up of a blend of recently retired stars and greats that hung up their skates a long time ago.
For the Leafs, Johnny Bower and Michael Palmateer will be in net, a pair that first joined the league in 1958 and 1976, respectively.
But the team won’t entirely made up of older players; fairly recent Maple Leafs like Mats Sundin (1994-2008) and Bryan McCabe (2000-2008) also make up the roster.
Detroit brings a similar mix of the recent past and ancient history to the game.
Venerated keepers from the early 2000s and 1990s like Chris Osgood, Manny Legace and Mike Vernon will be in net alongside Eddie Mio, who last played for Detroit in 1986.
The Red Wings also got some of their legendary defensemen like Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom to return for the game, as well as prominent forwards like Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov and Kris Draper.
However, the Red Wings absolutely wanted one player above all the others: former captain Steve Yzerman.
Although he was initially reluctant, Yzerman ultimately agreed to participate, as Philly.com’s Matt Brigidi explains.
However, the one remaining wrench was whether former captain Steve Yzerman would participate in the alumni game. With responsibilities as the Tampa Bay Lightning manager and as the primary architect of Hockey Canada's team for the Sochi Olympics, Yzerman has a lot on his plate.
While he originally stated that he wouldn't participate in the game, it seems the pestering of his former teammates and Ken Holland has broken down the barrier, as the Red Wings announced that Yzerman will play in the alumni game associated with the 2014 Winter Classic.
Yzerman may have a lot on his plate, but he does still seem to be looking forward to taking time out to participate in the event.
"I just felt like it was appropriate to be there," Yzerman told The Tampa Bay Times. "Obviously not skating at all, you're a little apprehensive. But I wanted to be there for the event and around, so it seemed to make sense. I'd rather be there in uniform I guess than street clothes."
But now that he is part of it, Yzerman should help make an already interesting event even more captivating.
The game may be a pure scrimmage without the trappings of a real hockey match, but that won’t make it any less fun.
It’ll be a real treat to watch these legends of the game lace up one more time and should be a lasting tradition for the league.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said the alumni games would be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. That is where the actual Winter Classic main event will be held on Wednesday, but the alumni games are actually to be played at Comerica Park. We regret the error.