When we look back to yesteryears of the NHL, we have seen and came across legends and HOF’s and many other that have contributed to the game. Now I’ve only been alive for under a third of the 100 years the league has been around and I have had the pleasure of witnessing some amazing players. The NHL had a centennial game celebrating the anniversary of the league having the Redwings and the Maple Leafs play a game up in Toronto, (makes sense, since it is Canada’s game), where the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL play. This isn’t the first time these two teams met in a game like this. A few years back these two teams met in the Big House of the Michigan Wolverines. Where over a 114 thousand people descended in Ann Arbor to watch and outdoor hockey game, the most ever to watch a hockey game. Boy, for me it held up to the standards I thought it would. Toronto has edged the Redwings in both classic games so far. Neither of these teams are pressed now for playoff runs in my opinion, with Detroit trying to find their way into the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season and the Maple Leafs in the middle of a rebuild.
The Maple Leafs had the advantage in my opinion, especially with the goalie issues for Detroit. The game was close till the latter half of the game where Toronto struck first, and struck again. Most of the action came in the 3rd period where Toronto was up a couple when just out of nowhere came the Wings tying the game in the final seconds of the third to force overtime. Auston Matthews really put on a show worthy of this game, specifically this outdoor game. Scoring the winning goal for the Leafs in ot, you could see his enthusiasm as he won the game and celebrated with his teammates. I couldn’t ask for more for a game like this, pulled goalie to tie the game with just seconds to go. Grasping my seat the entire 3rd period essentially, hoping for something amazing to happen and I was let down.
Hockey now is mostly played in doors, which is fine for the people who don’t like the cold, but we may forget that is was created as an outdoor sport in its humble beginnings back in the late 1800’s. As we grow up, creating a love and bond for the fastest sport without a engine, we learn to not only love but respect it’s roots. I and my many puckheads out there have memories of going to the pond with your friends and just playing and playing. I can remember the first time I played outside on the pond as a kid learning the ropes from guys who where friends of the family. Learning to take proper strides and using my stick, and most definitely falling down a lot. Although the college ranks played outdoor games before the NHL, I was so overjoyed to see back in 2009 that the NHL had decided to play an outdoor game with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres as the first NHL winter Classic game. Now we have the Centennial Game and the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series games that are all played outdoors.
For the most part these games are not only just a regular season game they are a show of respect and a reminder of why we love this game so much. The unique celebrations, to past players, and even the kids who are involved get to keep the memories and help keep the tradition alive. You don’t always have to go to the rink to enjoy a good skate session, though it helps in the warmer months, but there’s no substitute for going to the pond and lacing up the skates in a shack with the old school wood burner and those foil wrapped spuds for warming up your gear, (laughing out loud), another old tradition from playing. It was nice to see the league really remember all those who the first legends to play in the early years, though most have passed on, it was nice to see their family members represent them before the Centennial game. Even Gretzky being the ambassador of hockey now that Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey is gone.
Even though the first players of the NHL are mostly gone we will never forget the stories, Cups, and the innovation over the years that has left a mark on the sport. Those who are young and up and coming for the sport will always be grateful that there’s a sport where not only will their be legends, but a game that can be remembered how it began, a outdoor game that has always been enjoyable to the young an old.