ANN ARBOR, Mich – With the media turned loose on the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, there was opportunity to get feedback from the coaches on the Winter Classic and what it means to them, their players and the club.
Mike Babcock said he is looking forward to playing Michigan Stadium and enjoying the atmosphere and hopes the hockey experience is the same as a Wolverine game.
“I if you haven’t been to a football Saturday here, then you should put it on your bucket list. It’s the best sporting event. I’ve been to the Olympic Games, the World Series, the Stanley Cup. I’ve been to a few things to say the least. This is probably the best sporting event I’ve ever been to, bar none. Can it transfer into hockey? I assume it can,” Babcock said.
The number of hockey fans alone should make for a raucous if cold atmosphere and one that will energize everyone.
“I think the week the NHL has put together here and at Comerica Park to sell our game is a great thing. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl setup in a way. Our game, because we go back and forth to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, doesn’t transfer that way. We can’t do it. But this is an unbelievable event to sell hockey,” Babcock added.
As if on cue, snow began falling in Ann Arbor in time for the press conference.
Then you come out here and there is no better site. The snow is coming down here today. The ice is fine. They’ve done a really beautiful job. It’s so close to Canada, with Toronto fans being able to be right here is a really great thing as well. It should be a lot of fun tomorrow. We always hope the game will live up to the opportunity.
For Babcock however, the Winter Classic is also another game in the schedule and two points are at stake especially when the Maple Leafs are tied in the standings with the Wings.
“All these games count. They’re supposed to count. That’s why you’re in the League. What we’ve done with the League now with the cap and all is it took some time, but it’s like the NFL is. They’ve got it set up like this. They want you all to be the same,” Babcock said.
“We were really fortunate in Detroit. We didn’t have to get involved in that equation for a long time. Now we’re the same as everybody else, and it’s a grind. It’s a grind night in and night out,” Babcock added. “It appears Chicago is not in that mix, but most of us are. So we’ve got to find a way to win games. Tomorrow will be no different.
“But, to me, that doesn’t get in the way, to answer your question earlier, of embracing the moment. I think you’re supposed to enjoy whatever you do. You don’t remember everything in your life, but you remember moments. This should be one. But it’s way more fun when you win. It’s been like that since you were six.”
The Red Wings coach was asked about the potential for snow before and during the game Wednesday and his level of concern for the game itself.
“I thought the snow was great today. It adds to the atmosphere. It adds to the memory. It’s going to be the same for both teams. Now the wind is going to be blowing in one direction, they’ve got a wind rule or something,” Babcock said. “You change at 10, and then you change at 2:30 or whatever in OT, if you need it. I’m not concerned about any of those things. We’ll play, play hard and find a way to win. I assume they’re going about it the same way.”
All signs point to a spectacular Winter Classic with much on the line for both the Red Wings and Maple Leafs.