It’s probably not going to be popular with everyone, but I’m pretty pumped about the next Winter Classic. Toronto/Detroit could be an interesting matchup on a lot of levels, but at the very least, it should be a good game because Toronto/Detroit is always a good game. It doesn’t matter whether both teams are bad, good or somewhere in between. It’s a matchup that always seems to draw out the best in both of them.
If you’re of a certain vintage, the Toronto/Detroit rivalry was one of the best. It always meant more to me than Toronto/Montreal or Toronto/Ottawa. One of the worst aspects of the Leafs moving to the Eastern Conference was that it meant the end of the old Norris Division games. To my eyes, gaining Montreal, Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa was never worth the loss of the Wings (and Hawks to a slightly lesser extent).
One thing that should be a treat about this game is the alumni. Both teams have been around forever and should be able to make a pretty good parade of stars. I think Wally Stanowski has to be one of the oldest remaining Leafs. I hope he can come. Bower, too. It’s just too bad we lost Teeder Kennedy before he could be part of something like this.
Also interesting from the alumni standpoint will be the enormous amount of players who suited up for both teams. Who will they appear as an alumnus of?
Some are easy. Sittler, Clark and Salming, for example, are most likely to wear blue and white. Marcel Pronovost would probably come as a Wing and I really don’t think Larry Murphy will be all that conflicted about what to wear.
Others are a little less clear. Bob Rouse was a big part of the Leaf teams of the early 90s and played the best playoff hockey of his career here. In Detroit, he had a lesser role but won a championship. Where does he go? Frank Mahovlich is probably a Leaf, but had some awesome seasons as a Wing. What about Norm Ullman?
Terry Sawchuk was yet another who played great games for both teams, backstopping the Wings on three different occasions, but most importantly on the great Production Line teams of the 1950s. After 1964, he joined the Leafs, won another Vezina and was key in the Cup win in 1967. Were he still alive, he most likely would appear as a Wing, but he’s one of many where two sides would try to stake a claim.
This will be fun.