Red Wings alumni Chris Osgood, left, and Darren McCarty will among those suiting up Tuesday for the two games at Comerica Park. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Detroit — There were lots of smiles and as many laughs from generations of Red Wings who were on the ice at Comerica Park Monday afternoon, practicing for their upcoming alumni game with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There was captain Nicklas Lidstrom skating and looking like he should be playing at the Big House New Year’s Day for the current Red Wings.
And, then there was Igor Larionov setting up a teammate, just like in the Stanley Cup run in the late ’90s, and Petr Klima flying down the ice like he did in the ’80s, and don’t forget 74-year-old Red Berenson, taking a shot on Manny Legace at one end and breaking up a scoring chance at the other end.
“It’s great being in the locker room with the guys again, talking about great memories,” Lidstrom said. “You feel like you’re a little kid again, playing outdoors with your former teammates.”
When Lidstrom was asked if he felt he retired too soon he replied: “No, never to the point where I felt I should have played another year or continued to play. I felt good about my decision, but I knew I’d still miss hockey and being a part of a team like today.”
Games will be played at 1 and 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, but players weren’t thinking about that, just having fun and being together again. And, the weather shouldn’t play a factor, though temperatures were in the high teens during the practice.
“I just wore a long sleeve shirt,” Lidstrom said. “When you’re skating on the ice you get warm right away and once you’re on the bench you’re pretty warm with the heaters on.”
Some of the Leafs were already in uniform waiting for their turn, including Lanny McDonald who visited with Mr. Hockey Gordie Howe while Howe’s son Mark Howe was playing.
“This is old-time hockey right here, you come out and have a little bit of fun and the good news is you don’t run the heck out of each other anymore,” McDonald said. “When you see this as a celebration of the game you come in and enjoy yourself as much as you can. We had this a couple of years ago in Calgary during the Heritage Classic and it was phenomenal so to come here in Detroit as two of the Original Sixs, it should be a blast.”
But, the weather … it’s cold!
“No, it’s mild,” said the Leafs’ Darryl Sittler who is looking forward to watching the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium since his son Ryan played hockey for the Wolverines. “In western Canada those guys play in 30 below. You just try not to get in the way of the puck. You let the goalie do that.”
Like Lidstrom, Chris Osgood was one of the players to recently retire from the Red Wings.
“It was a lot of fun,” Osgood said. “It was the first time with all the guys. It’s cool seeing all the guys and different generation of players out there. It was like playing pond hockey back in Canada.”
Oh, and Osgood and the rest of the goalies had a reason for letting a goal or two in with the sun out.
“It’s tough enough we haven’t played a lot in years and then the sun factors into it and it’s freezing,” Osgood said, “but you have to look past that. It’s about being with the guys and having a good time out there. It’s (alumni game) going to be a lot of fun.”
And, don’t forget Scotty Bowman, the legendary coach.
“Scotty was behind the bench and Barry Smith was getting into trouble again” said Osgood of Bowman picking on Smith, his assistant coach. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure Barry Smith shows up tomorrow.”
Osgood was impressed with Brendan Shanahan’s skating. Don’t expect Shanahan to be giving any suspensions which is part of his job with the NHL as senior vice president of player safety.
“Alumni game, alumni rules, it all goes,” joked Shanahan who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame earlier this year. “This is great and it was sad when I saw the Leafs come and we had to get off the ice because I would have hung out and played until it got dark.
“I would have liked to stay around and horse around a little bit more, just take some shots at the goalies. It’s fun being around everybody. It’s funny, some of these guys we haven’t seen or sat on a bench together in eight, nine or 10 years and you pick up on old jokes. It’s almost like a conversation that started in 2005 and you’re picking up on it now right where you left off. It was funny when Scotty came on the bench because we were all reliving different moments where he put us all in the doghouse or as Tomas Holmstrom called it the dogyard.”
There was no Steve Yzerman sighting, but he is expected to be on the ice in the alumni game.
“For the last two or three months I’ve been trying to coax Steve Yzerman into playing,” Mark Howe said. “I know Stevie was a little aprehensive, but the game just would not have been the same without him. I’m really happy and excited for Stevie. He needed to be here.”
And, Howe was happy to be at Comerica Park, playing while his father and son, Nolan were on hand.
“We had 24 family members in town and had a nice late Christmas dinner last night,” Mark Howe said. “It’s great to get a chance to celebrate and be around and have Dad with us since you never know how much time is left so it’s nice to have him here.
“My boy (Nolan) used to come to all the games and he was on the ice when we won the Cup (in 1997). He’s 27 now and he’s a hockey lover like everybody who will be here tommorow. I got him in the team picture and got a picture with myself and his grandpa and it’s just things you cherish as you get older in life.”
And, you can bet Wings fans will certainly cherish watching their heroes once again when the puck drops at Comerica Park for the alumni game with the Leafs.