Toronto – Talk about veteran status.
If you want to ask someone who is experienced about playing in these outdoor hockey games, ask Luke Glendening.
Sunday’s game at BMO Field will be Glendening’s seventh career game in the great outdoors,
“I never thought I’d play in one,” said Glendening, who reached the NHL as an undrafted free agent.
Luke Glendening on the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs. Ted Kulfan
Glendening took part in three outdoor games at Michigan – at The Big House against Michigan State, at Camp Randall against Wisconsin, and at Progressive Field against Ohio State.
Glendening took part in the outdoor game with the Grand Rapids Griffins when they played at Comerica Park against the Toronto Marlies, and a day later was called up to play for the Red Wings against the Maple Leafs at The Big House.
Last season Glendening and the Red Wings played in Denver against the Avalanche.
“Every one of them is unique and fun,” Glendening said. “Different weather, for sure. We were playing in 70 degree weather last year. (Played in) snow, had everything.
“I’m excited to be part of another one. You want them to keep going. But they’re all unique, have their own intricacies which is fun
“I remember each one of them for different reasons but playing in the Big House was special.”
Coach Jeff Blashill on the Red Wings' experience in outdoor games. Ted Kulfan
One, does standout, though, for another reason.
The game at Camp Randall was played in extreme cold. Wolverines coach Red Berenson, though, decided to forego any warm clothing, at least for the first period.
“It was freezing and coach Berenson didn’t wear a coat for the first period,” Glendening said. “He was sick for three weeks after.
“But we were all like ‘this guy is crazy’.”
Defenseman Brendan Smith is from Toronto, and returning to play two or three times a season is always a special thrill.
But this particular trip, obviously, is magnified with the game being played at BMO Field and the enthusiasm around the game.
“Any time you get to play at home, like getting to play at the ACC (Air Canada Center), it’s fun,” said Smith, who grew up 10 minutes from BMO Field. “It’s added because it’s an outdoor game and the hype of everything and having a lot of friends come out for the game.
“That’ll be exciting.”
Many of the Red Wings have played in several of these NHL outdoor games, unlike the younger, rookie-dominated Maple Leafs.
Will that be an advantage?
“You have to know when it’s time to go to work that we’re focused,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We can enjoy everything about it, and when the puck drops, let’s be real focused on getting the two points.”
This type of event is a different from a normal regular season game.
“I don’t want to necessarily call it a distraction because a lot of times it’s family and that’s a great thing, a positive thing,” Blashill said. “But it’s different to your routine, different than the normal routine at any time we live. But that’s part of being a pro, dealing with any of that outside stuff and making sure you focus on what you can control.”
Riley Sheahan (upper body) skated at Saturday’s practice but Blashill isn’t sure about Sheahan’s return to the lineup.
“Likely to be available but I won’t know for sure until tomorrow,” Blashill said. “All our lineup decisions will be made (Sunday).”
…The Red Wings practiced at Ricoh Coliseum, across the parking lot from BMO Field where the Alumni Game was taking place at the same time.
Niklas Kronwall took a playoff jab at Henrik Zetterberg when the team was boarding the bus to the rink.
“He didn’t know whether to go on the bus or go and play with the other guys (alumni),” Kronwall said.
…Toronto rookie Auston Matthews, the first overall pick in June’s Entry Draft, is living up to the hype with 18 goals and 30 points.
“Unique talent,” Blashill said. “He plays a man’s game at a young age. He’s strong, super strong on the puck, and he knows how to protect his body well and he’s real efficient.
“He’s not flashy all the time, it’s not the highlight plays all the time, it’s good hockey plays.”
RED WINGS AT MAPLE LEAFS
Faceoff: 3 p.m., BMO Field.
TV/radio: NBC-Channel 4, 97.1 The Ticket.
Outlook: The Red Wings face the Maple Leafs and former coach Mike Babcock fo rhte first time this season…Toronto (16-12-7, 39 points) are hot (6-2-2) and its talented young players are developing quicker than expected.