Jan 2 2014, 12:50am CST | by Poch de la Rosa
The attendance was reported to be 105,941, "the largest crowd for a game in NHL history," per Corey Masisak of NHL.com. The sheer size of the stadium ensured the decibel level would reach epic proportions, with Red Wings fans dominating the south and while Maple Leafs fans were more numerous in the north end, Masisak adds.
The turnout surpassed the 104,173 who witnessed the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans NCAA hockey match three years ago, as noted by ESPN. The latest figure is a far cry from the average attendance of 53,045 in the last five Winter Classics.
Lance Hornby of The Toronto Sun reported in the aftermath of the game that 40,000 tickets were sold in Southern Ontario. He also adds a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to confirm the attendance record.
In terms of game-day conditions, the same ESPN update states it was "13 degrees with a wind chill of zero and steady snow that didn't stop on a windy afternoon." The previous five Winter Classics recorded an average of 39 degrees.
As for the game itself, Leafs forward Tyler Bozak scored the game-winning goal while Toronto goaltender Johathan Bernier made two crucial saves against the Red Wings' Daniel Alfredsson and Tomas Tatar in the shoothout to ensure the victory. Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored the Maple Leafs' two goals in regulation.
Bernier, who established a new NHL record for an outdoor game with 41 saves (surpassing the previous record of 39 set by the Calgary Flames' Miikka Kiprusoff three years ago), told The Canadian Press about the poor visibility in the first period.
"I tried to play with the odds with the ice advantage, probably, as a goalie. I tried to take away the angles and be more aggressive a little bit and hopefully they go for the deke and miss the puck."
Detroit actually had a chance to win the game in overtime with team captain Henrik Zetterberg about to break away from the rest of the pack with only Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson on his left with a chance to stop him.
However, the horn "sounded to stop play at the 2:30 mark of the extra period so both teams played into a 10-plus mph wind for an equal amount of time," according to the ESPN update.
With this, Zetterberg said,"I think I would have had a clear breakaway."
In spite of the loss, Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader, who grew up in the state of Michigan and attended Michigan State University, told Masisak it was his "best experience" related to hockey.
"It was the best experience I've probably ever had playing hockey. It was awesome. It brings you back to your childhood days when you were out in the backyard or playing on a pond. It was a lot of fun. I was just thankful to have the opportunity."
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun completely agreed with Abdelkader, whose third-period goal forced overtime. LeBrun hailed the game as "the best Winter Classic" in his Jan. 1 report.
"Because regardless of what happens in the five other outdoor games this season, there won't be anything that will match a record crowd of 105,941, nor the dueling historical significance of having a pair of Original Six franchises bringing two countries together on one sheet of ice.
"Simply put, it was the best Winter Classic yet."
The Red Wings fell to 18-14-10 while the Maple Leafs upped their record to 21-16-5.
Poch de la Rosa
Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.
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