While the Winter Classic was the main game this week, the Alumni Showdown was a fantastic show as well.
Gary Unger and Red Berensen are not remembered as Red Wings by the younger group of Red Wings fans, but back in the 60’s and 70’s they were both very good players for the Wings and helped lead the team to success.
Jiri Fischer and Martin LaPointe are much more well-known, but not always for the right reason.
Fischer was projected to be the next big bruising defenseman for the Red Wings before he collapsed on the bench and in a split second his NHL career was over. Seeing him skating in the Winged Wheel once again is a sight that will forever be burned into my memory along with all the other fans watching on TV or at the ballpark. Fischer scored the first goal of the game for the Red Wings and they never looked back.
LaPointe was set to be the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings before taking the Boston Bruins up on their offer, an offer the Red Wings could not match. It was an amicable split by both sides, but the Wings certainly missed his big shot, which was on display quite often during the game.
Eddie Mio and Kevin Hodson were the only netmiders for Detroit during the first Alumni Showdown game and it was a bit disappointing that Ken Holland did not play in the game, but these goalies stood on their head a few times in order to make big saves and Eddie Mio even wore a old-school face mask instead of his usual goalie mask and it was a sight to behold.
After Game One, the snow began to fall in Detroit and it turned from the Alumni Showdown into the the Alumni Snowdown.
Just before the start of Game Two, the snow stopped falling and fans were treated to the likes of Brendan Shanahan, Slava Fetisov and Koslov, Segeri Fedorov, Doug Brown (my favorite) and The Captain, Steve Yzerman.
Yzerman was the player fans were most looked forward to seeing on the ice, but before the game began it was announced that the Russian Five would be the Wings’ starters and Vladimir Konstantinov walked onto the ice, with some help, and was joined by Fetisov, Kovlov, Fedorov, and Larionov for a picture.
Seeing Konstantinov always brings up memories of him on the ice and the accident, but this moment was special for not only the fans, but him as well. His eyes lite up and a smile reached from ear to ear as he held onto the stick, while being surrounded by his former teammates. It was the most emotional part of the Alumni Showdown by far.
When the game started the Detroit Red Wings Alums took it to the Toronto Maple Leaf Alums and scored two quick goals; one by Doug Brown, who had a simple celebration and one by Hall of Famer, Chris Chelios, who decided to make his celebration a bit more extravagant.
Fedorov and Shanahan joined in on the scoring, which treated the fans watching on TV and in Comerica Park with the Irish Jig that used to play after ever Shanahan goal in Joe Louis Arena.
After the first half the Wings were up 4-1 on the Maple Leafs and when the second started it looked like more of the same would happen as Nicklas Lidstrom put a goal in to make it 5-1. But after that goal the tides turned and it was all Toronto for the rest of the game.
If it was not for Manny Legace standing on his head at the end of the second half, it could have been a win for Toronto, but instead the game went to a shootout.
In the shootout Scotty Bowman called upon Tomas Holmstrom as his first shooter and myself along with everyone else in the stands was thoroughly confused. With the talent available on the bench it was Homer getting the call, but then Homer went down the ice and made a beautiful deke on CuJo to put the puck into the net and make fools of all of us who doubted him.
There were no more goals in the shootout and the Detroit Red Wings Alumni beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the shootout.
Whether it was the games, the atmosphere, or seeing your childhood stars back on the ice; it was a great moment and something that will live on with everyone who attended the game.