Lebda now knows Wrigley inside out

 

Red Wings defenceman Brett Lebda, born and raised in the Chicago area, added the Winter Classic to his list of Windy City hockey memories, scoring a goal in Detroit's 6-3 win Thursday at Wrigley Field to boot.

 
 
 
 
 

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Red Wings defenceman Brett Lebda, born and raised in the Chicago area, added the Winter Classic to his list of Windy City hockey memories, scoring a goal in Detroit's 6-3 win Thursday at Wrigley Field to boot.

"I had to look around and try to believe it was true," Lebda admitted. "I was playing a hockey game at Wrigley Field.

"Usually, when I'm here, I'm on the other side of the fence, watching the action on the field. To be looking up at the fans, it was quite an experience."

Many of Lebda's Chicago hockey memories were also born from his days as a fan.

"One of my favourite ones was the (NHL) all-star game in 1991 (at Chicago Stadium)," Lebda recalled.

"The Gulf War had just started and I just remember the (U. S.) National Anthem and how long it was. It was the loudest I've heard a building in my life. It's something I'll remember forever."

Detroit defenceman Chris Chelios, the NHL's oldest player at 46 years of age and another native of Chicago, reminisced about his first visit to Wrigley as a child to see a Cubs game.

Tinker to Evers to Chance? No, he's not that old.

"It was when they had guys like Ron Santo, Glenn Beckert and Billy Williams, in those days," Chelios said.

For some Wings, skating at Wrigley marked their first visit to the venerable ball yard. "I've been trying to get (Wings vice-president and former team captain) Steve Yzerman to come here for years, but this is the first time he's been here," Chelios said.

"I'd never been here before, so I think this is pretty cool," Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart said.

A group of legendary Chicago sports stars took part in pre-game ceremonies and later sung "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the third period.

There were some obvious choices, such as ex-Blackhawks stars Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito,

Denis Savard and Stan Mikita, as well as representatives of other Chicago sports icons who spent their careers at Wrigley Field, such as former Chicago Cubs Ryne Sandberg, Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins.

Perhaps the most excited to be part of it all was Jenkins.

"I wouldn't have missed this," said the Hall of Fame pitcher from Chatham, Ont., who won 284 big-league games, the majority of them for the Cubs.

Along with baseball, the 1971 Cy Young Award winner also enjoyed a stellar hockey career, reaching the junior B ranks in his hometown, playing against the likes of former Blackhawks Wayne and Chico Maki and Pat Stapleton, as well as other future NHLers such as Derek Sanderson.

After he turned pro in baseball, Jenkins continued to play industrial league hockey in the winters in Chatham and still dons the blades regularly to take the ice with his grandson.

"Once you learn to skate, you never forget," he said.

Detroit's Jiri Hudler (two goals-one assist), Henrik Zetterberg (0-3) and Marian Hossa (0-3) and Chicago's Martin Havlat (1-2) all finished the game with three points to gain a share of the NHL's all-time outdoor scoring lead.

The name of the leading scorer in outdoor games before Thursday might come as a surprise.

It's Edmonton defenceman Steve Staios. He produced a goal and two assists for the Oilers in their 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Heritage Classic at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 22, 2003.

Hudler joined Richard Zednik and Yanic Perreault--both of whom netted twice for Montreal in 2003--as the league's all-time outdoor goal-scoring leaders.

"That's great," Hudler said. Colby Armstrong, who

skated for Pittsburgh in the Jan. 1, 2008, Winter Classic against the Sabres at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, holds the outdoor penalty-minute mark with four.

Ice chIps: Naturally, as a local hero, Lebda was in-undated with ticket requests from friends and family. "I had a ton," he said. "I think I met everyone's request. I got about 40 of them." . . . A couple of hours prior to game time, several Chicago players gathered in the snow outside the boards to play kick about with a soccer ball, the traditional pre-game loosening up exercise of the modern NHLer . . . The Wrigley Field concourse was lined with banners honouring the players in the game, alternating between Chicago and Detroit players like Patrick Kane, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews, Johan Franzen, Patrick Sharp and Henrik Zetterberg. At the end of the row, another large banner featured Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins skating in last year's Winter Classic. That's life when you are the face of the NHL. Even when you're aren't involved in the game, you're still there . . . The majority of players opted for tuques to protect their ears from the cold during pre-game warm-ups, but there were three holdouts. Detroit forward Dan Cleary, Chicago forward Adam Burish and defenceman James Wisniewski all decided to skate bare-headed.

 
 
 
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