Maple Leafs and Red Wings open 2014 with Classic thriller

Wed Jan 1, 2014 6:36pm EST
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By Steve Keating

ANN ARBOR, Michigan (Reuters) - The National Hockey League rang in the New Year in record breaking style and a shootout thriller as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in the outdoor Winter Classic on Wednesday.

An announced record hockey crowd of 105,491 braved brutal Arctic conditions to fill the massive Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and were left on the edge on the edge of their frozen seats until the Leafs' Tyler Bozak scored the decisive shootout goal in the fading light and blowing snow.

If confirmed, the crowd would be the biggest ever for a hockey game surpassing the 104,173 set when Michigan State and Michigan met in 2010 at the same stadium dubbed 'The Big House'.

Guinness world record officials were on hand but were not immediately able to confirm the record.

The previous highest NHL attendance came at the first Winter Classic in 2008 in snowy Buffalo when the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in front of a crowd at 71,217 to Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"We know we sold 105,000 plus tickets and we also suspect there were some no shows because we heard stories of people taking more than two and a half hours to get here because of the road conditions," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters. "It was 13 degrees with a wind chill of minus-1 so I don't know if we set the Guinness attendance record but we set our own record.

"Based on tickets sold we should have (the record) but people were still arriving in the second period so it is hard to know."

The sixth Winter Classic was played in a blizzard as snow swirled around stadium and temperatures plunged to minus 13 Celsius (13 Fahrenheit).   Continued...

Detroit Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg (40) battles for the puck with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) and left wing James van Riemsdyk (21) in overtime during the 2014 Winter Classic hockey game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports