Dane Robinson, left, of Windsor, high-fives fans as he makes his way around the stadium before the game. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)
Ann Arbor – Snow is falling, the temperature is around 15 degrees, and Red Wings and Maple Leafs fans are basking in a unique atmosphere around The Big House.
Can it get any better for a hockey fan?
Approximately 90 minutes from the start of the Winter Classic, fans are getting excited – very excited – for the game to start.
“Go Red Wings,” yelled a group of Red Wings fans basking around a fire near a parking lot leading to the stadium.
“Go Leafs,” answered a small army of Toronto fans across the lot, all from Ontario.
All will be part of a record crowd of over 105,000 fans, although getting there was, and has been, a struggle.
With as much of six inches expected to fall Wednesday, there were numerous spin-outs, accidents and icy conditions on area freeways delaying getting into Ann Arbor.
Fans are reminded no backpacks are allowed into The Big House.
Once they get there, amidst all the hoopla, this is an important mid-season game for both teams.
Both the Red Wings and Maple Leafs have 45 points and are clinging to wildcard playoff spots as the second half of the season begins.
“It’s a big game for both teams, a divisional game, and both us and Toronto are fighting for our playoff lives,” forward Justin Abdelkader said Tuesday after the Red Wings’ practice at The Big House. “That’s what you want, a meaningful game that means something.
“It’s something exciting for the fan bases and friends and family and everyone involved. One day we’ll back and think about it and remember it for the rest of our lives. Just have to go out and enjoy it.”