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Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Wings alumni revel in the memories

By Craig Custance



DETROIT -- A crowd of reporters surrounded Sergei Fedorov, who was still trying to take in what just happened. Igor Larionov was next to him, sitting on a stool and patiently taking off his equipment. Slava Kozlov was a few feet away, doing an interview in Russian. His old coach Scotty Bowman stood next to couches nearby, chatting with those hanging out in the Comerica Park clubhouse.

It was shortly after the second Winter Classic alumni game, one in which the Russian Five was reunited, and the emotions of everything that happened were still settling in. It was a game in which Vladimir Konstantinov stole the show before it even began, standing up with his former teammates, swinging a stick on the ice.

"It's a lot of emotions," Fedorov said, trying to put it in words. "I think I've got to sit on it for a week or two just to remember everything about it. Every guy, every friend, every colleague I saw today ... It remind[s] you of a lot of emotions."

After a warm-up alumni game, the main event delivered everything the chilled Red Wings fans could have hoped for as 33,425 Leafs and Red Wings fans braved the cold to relive some of the glory days.

Joey Kocur came out in a Bob Probert sweater, a fitting tribute to his fellow bruise brother. Kozlov, a shootout master in the early days of the skills competition, got a crack at a penalty shot.

"I just didn't know what to do," he said, explaining his rare miss.

And, of course, there was the return of No. 19. Steve Yzerman's return to the ice in Detroit was one of the biggest selling points, some fans waiting until he committed to the alumni game before buying tickets.

"They get no refunds," he said, joking afterward.

Yzerman got huge cheers during his few hours away from two full-time jobs running the Lightning and picking a Team Canada roster that is expected to win gold in the Winter Olympics.

"It's a nice little distraction," Yzerman said of the alumni game, a 6-5 shootout win for the home team. "Some of these guys I haven't seen since I retired, since I was traded. You come in the locker room and you kind of pick up where you left off. The humor is the same."

Fans wanted to see an Yzerman appearance in the shootout, calling his name when each Red Wings player made his attempt. His chance never came, a coach's decision.

"Scotty was calling out the names. I have mixed emotions," Yzerman said. "I'm not really sure I wanted to go. Eventually I would have got there, I guess."

In an afternoon filled with moments, the best might have been at the beginning. Detroit hockey legends Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay walked to center ice for the ceremonial drop of the puck.

Wearing khakis, a black fedora and red Detroit jersey, Howe returned to Detroit ice to chants of his name, dropping a puck for Yzerman and Darryl Sittler, something for all generations of hockey fans.

His son Mark watched with a mix of trepidation and appreciation.

"I didn't want him to fall," Mark Howe told ESPN The Magazine. "How can you have a game like this and not have Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe? They’re a couple of guys who are a major part of the tradition in the '40s and '50s, and Dad kept going beyond that. That's what it's all about. The history of these two franchises is incredible."