DETROIT – Dino Ciccarelli had goose bumps, and it had absolutely nothing to do with being cold.
The diminutive former Red Wing and hockey Hall of Famer was on Wednesday talking about the opportunity he received to play with and against some legendary skaters in the Hockeytown Winter Festival’s Alumni Showdown. The event, one of two alumni games between former Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs greats, will be held in December on a rink constructed at Comerica Park.
Despite a very accomplished career of his own, during which he scored 608 goals, Ciccarelli was still awestruck at the possibilities that lie ahead of him in about five months.
“These are some of the guys I’m going to be playing with that I idolized as a kid,” Ciccarelli explained. “I get goose bumps even talking about it. Here I’m in the Hall of Fame and stuff, but I’m thinking about playing against Darryl Sittler and Johnny Bower. To be part of it with them, and shaking their hands, is obviously going to be another dream come true.”
Ciccarelli, a veteran of 1,232 NHL games including 254 with the Wings, actually grew up in Sarnia, Ontario, as a fan of the Maple Leafs.
Yet, in the Alumni Showdown, he knows that his allegiance is only with the Winged Wheel. Ciccarelli sees nothing but positive vibes coming out of the alumni contests that feature such historic rivals.
“I think it’s great for the city,” he said. “It’s great that we’re near Windsor and Canada. I think it’s going to bring the rivalry back, and I think it’s going to be two weeks of pure fun for everyone involved.”
The Alumni Showdown will take place on December 31, and will be the final event before the current Red Wings and Maple Leafs teams face off on January 1, 2013 at The Big House in Ann Arbor.
Ciccarelli recalls fond memories of watching past Winter Classics, wishing he could turn back the clock.
“I remember watching the outdoor game in Buffalo (in 2008) when it was snowing, and the ratings were through the roof for that game,” Ciccarelli said.
“I remember thinking, ‘I’m too old; I wish I had an opportunity to play in one of those outdoor games.’ And next thing you know, Mr. and Mrs. Illich put this thing together and I’m going to be part of it. I feel like a kid again, and I think all the alumni guys do too.”
Ciccarelli did, however, attempt to give fate a little nudge.
While ex-Wing Joe Kocur is the president of the Red Wings Alumni Association, it is actually general manager Ken Holland who is tasked with selecting the alums for the outdoor games.
“(Holland) called me, and I felt like a kid again trying to make the team (by) calling the coach. He said, ‘Dino, I don’t know. You’re on the bubble. You might make it and you might not.’ He told me the majority of the team is guys who have won the Stanley Cup, or are in the Hall of Fame. I wanted to make sure Kenny Holland knew I was in for sure.”
With his spot in the festivities assured, Ciccarelli has now turned his focus toward the next task at hand: getting his 42-year-old body into good enough shape to really skate. Ciccarelli said that he has kept pretty active in hockey, but admitted his game would need a bit of “fine-tuning” before December rolls around.
Just as they did with Kocur, the media pestered Ciccarelli about getting former captains Nick Lidstrom and Steve Yzerman involved in the event as well.
Ciccarelli was unsure if those players would eventually become involved or not, but he was all for their inclusion.
“It would be nice to have Nick back on the blue line for this game,” he said. “And, it would be nice to have my old line mate back, in Stevie. I have to believe, down deep, they want to be a part of it.”
There are probably a large number of Toronto and Detroit alums who share that exact sentiment.