Pregame: Winter Classic 2014 – Maple Leafs @ Red Wings

Kicking this off now so I don’t have to worry about it in the morning. Let’s get the lineup stuff out of the way first…

Tomas Jurco has been sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins, making him the unlucky one who plays in neither of the organization’s outdoor games this season as he was in Nashville with the Red Wings on Monday while Grand Rapids played the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park.

On the flip side, Luke Glendening will get to play in both games, having been sent down to the Griffins in time for Monday’s game and called back to appear in the Winter Classic. And we’re told he will play. I’m sure one of the beat writers being shuffled back and forth between Ann Arbor and Detroit saw the actual practice lines but I’m out of the loop, having been at Comerica Park for the Alumni Showdown all day, so I’m assuming Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be put on the same line so the Wings needed an extra center. Or maybe they just want that option.

Daniel Alfredsson could miss the game. He’ll make the decision himself in the morning.

Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal even after his awful outing in Nashville. With Jonas Gustavsson hurt, you knew the team wouldn’t go with Petr Mrazek so that’s no surprise.

Here’s some super-sized stupid stats to go with the super-sized venue…

  • The Red Wings are unbeaten all-time in outdoor games. (Their only outdoor game being a win in the 2009 Winter Classic.)
  • The Red Wings organization has never won an outdoor game it hosted. (Griffins lost to the Marlies on Monday.)
  • No team in the Red Wings organization has ever hosted an outdoor game in their actual host city. (Grand Rapids hosted a game in Detroit, Detroit will host a game in Ann Arbor.)
  • The home team has never lost in regulation in any high-level outdoor hockey game in Michigan. (MSU tied U-M in the Cold War, U-M beat MSU in the Big Chill, Griffins lost in a shootout on Monday.)
  • The Red Wings are 1-2 all-time in “home” games played outside their normal home arena. (Lost to Washington in Milwaukee, 3/16/1993. Beat Hartford in Cleveland, 2/24/1994. Lost to St. Louis in Stockholm, 10/2/2009.)
  • The Red Wings are 11-4-3 all-time when playing in an arena other than the home team’s normal home arena.

Game time is 1:00 PM on NBC.

A Winter Classic Mini-Rant

We’re five hours from the start of the 2014 Winter Classic and I want to get a little rant out of the way so it’s not influenced by the outcome of the game, whatever that may be.

I recently described my plan for today to a non-hockey-following friend as “hanging out with 55,000 of my best friends and 55,000 asshole fans of the other team.” Okay, not all Leafs fans are assholes, but it’s the number that I have a problem with.

Red Wings fans have a rap for being conspiracy theorists but let me ask you this: How many other Winter Classic “host” teams have had to reserve half of their stadium for opposition fans?

I was in Chicago in 2009. There were a ton of Wings fans there but they didn’t give us our own sections.

The Winter Classic is a league event. The host team hands over a home date and the league does what they want with it. This time, unlike any other, they did everything they could to turn it into a neutral-site game.

Maybe that’s the new normal. Maybe Washington will be subjected to the same thing next year and it’s just coincidence that it started with the year Detroit hosted. We’ll see.