DETROIT -- From the dugouts of Comerica Park, the legends came streaming out, donning the uniforms like the days of old. Igor Larionov, Chris Chelios, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Tomas Holmstrom, Sergei Fedorov and Steve Yzerman from the Wings side alone, each to massive cheers (none bigger than Stevie Y's). Doug Gilmour, Joe Nieuwendyk, Curtis Joseph, Lanny McDonald, Wendel Clark, Darryl Sittler and the gang came out representing the Leafs.
You'd be hard-pressed to find one game with a better collection of hockey players ever played. The list of Hall of Famers and guys who will soon be there was deep, the game steeped in star power and tradition.
For Hockeytown in particular, it was a chance to relive the glory years that really aren't all that far removed. The heroes of yesteryear were honored with thundering applause after thundering applause, taking part not only in an exhibition game but truly giving the fans a treat.
There were goals from Shanahan, Chelios, Lidstrom, Fedorov. It was like 2002 all over again in Motown on the outdoor rink where the unbridled joy comes out of all the players.
"The fans were into it and you could see the players were into it too," Lidstrom said. "[It was great] seeing how happy the fans were, to see all the guys out there again. Playing in the game was fun too."
Before you even start to get excited, calm down Wings fans. Lidstrom didn't get the itch.
"It was fun for one game, I don't think I could do this every day," Lidstrom said. "But I did enjoy myself for tonight's game."
For a while they truly did look like the Wings of yesteryear, building up a 5-1 lead in the game to take it on the verge of a blowout. That was until the Maple Leafs came charging back and tied the game up with literally two seconds to go thanks to Bryan McCabe. It didn't quite make up for 4-1, but it was exciting nonetheless. The bonus? It meant a few more minutes of the legends on the ice for everybody to enjoy.
They skipped the overtime and just went straight to the shootout.
"I'm not a fan of the shootout, I never had a shootout when I coached," lamented Bowman. But it did give him a chance to get Tomas Holmstrom his shining moment once more as Homer scored the only goal in the shootout to give Detroit the 6-5 victory and the sweep in the doubleheader.
"It was good for Homer because they were trying to get him a goal," Bowman said.
It was indeed good for Holmstrom but really it was good for everybody, the horde of Leafs fans in attendance included. They were even treated to a Tie Domi breakaway goal and goalie Mike Palmateer's awesome gear and glove save. It had moments and memories for all.
The best moments, though, came before the game even began.
What good is a Red Wings alumni game without Gordie Howe or Ted Lindsay? The answer is not good, so of course Mr. Hockey and Lindsay were on hand for the festivities to drop the puck for Sittler and Yzerman with the great Ted Lindsay by his side. Gordie began to walk off the carpet and onto the ice, enjoying the moment all with a smile on his face while the crowd erupted into "Gordie! Gordie!" Howe and Lindsay dropped their pucks and they were just about set to go.
But not before a moment with the Russian Five and Vladimir Konstantinov. Much the same as they reacted with Howe, the crowd erupted into chants of "Vladdy! Vladdy!
The chills on Tuesday came from more than the bitter cold. It was a special night that gave everybody in attendance the warm and fuzzies, the players included. You couldn't ask for a better warmup to the game in Ann Arbor on New Year's Day.