ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Players peered through the snow and wind to see the blue and the red. Michigan Stadium was packed and pulsating, yet somehow also serene.
The Detroit Red Wings put the Winter Classic behind them Wednesday, reluctantly. To play outdoors at Michigan Stadium, before an announced attendance of 105,491 -- a number that may decrease when eventually certified -- was a magnificent experience, rendered all the more so because so many people stayed through mid-teen temperatures, stayed through steady snowfall and bitter cold. Much as players focused on the game, their field of vision was panoramic.
"While you're in that moment, you take a step back and look at where you're at, and what's going on in front of you," Todd Bertuzzi said. "It was pretty spectacular."
Justin Abdelkader, who had the tying goal in the 3-2 shoot-out loss, called it, "almost like a blizzard out there."
Captain Henrik Zetterberg got chills walking out before the game. "There were a lot of people here already," he said. "But even the bus ride in, going through here, seeing all the guys everywhere -- overall, it was cool. It was a great experience for our group."
The game lasted nearly three and a half hours. It was worth going the distance. "It was almost like a perfect ending," Zetterberg said.
Zetterberg set up the first goal, firing a shot that went in off Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson had missed the previous game because of back spasms and had skated just a handful of minutes Tuesday, but he took the warm-ups Wednesday, determined to play.
"It was unbelievable," he said. "Just to see all the people at an outdoor rink, snowing a little bit, the temperature was pretty much perfect."
Players took advantage of the numerous time-outs needed to clear the ice to soak in the setting.
"You just try to take it all in," Alfredsson said, "then get focused when you're on the ice."
Players said the snow made it hard to handle the puck for anyone other than the Pavel Datsyuks of the world.
"The rest of us," Bertuzzi said, "were just trying to push it up, trying to get a chance at a shot."
Bertuzzi dreamed about this game since it was the 2013 Winter Classic, which ended up scuttled because of the lockout. As can happen, the actual version turned out even better because it segued right out of the Wings' annual fathers' trip, which Bertuzzi flipped around and took his son, Tag.
To complete the romantic appeal of outdoor hockey, the weather acquiesced.
"It was better than I thought it was going to be," Bertuzzi said. "We had a lot of snow and all that, it just added to it. it was fitting it went to a shoot-out. unfortunately we didn't get the two points, but overall, I think hockey won on this day."
The Wings had angled for a Winter Classic since playing at Wrigley Field in 2009. Their event ended up at Michigan Stadium in an attempt to set a world record for attendance at a hockey game.
Whether Wednesday's event will top the record set on Dec. 11, 2010, at Michigan Stadium between Michigan and Michigan State won't be known until Guinness World Records personnel issue a certification.
If it falls short, there's a definite upside: Bring it on, again.
(c)2014 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services