7 defining moments in Winter Classic history

The University of Michigan's "Big House," saw a record 105,491 fans turn out to watch the Red Wings and Maple Leafs in the 2014 Winter Classic.

New Year’s is simultaneously a time for looking forward and reflecting.

So as the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins prepare to face off Jan. 1 in the NHL’s eighth Winter Classic, let’s take a look back at the frozen moments that have defined the previous seven installments.

2008: Sidney Crosby caps off shootout
The original Winter Classic could not have been scripted any better.

A then-record-breaking 71,217 fans huddled together at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium and saw the game’s best player win the inaugural event in a shootout.

“I walked on the field in the snow and looked up and marvelled at the fact there had never been that many people at an NHL game before,” commissioner Gary Bettman told us.

“The magnitude of the event the first time we did it struck me.”

That Crosby was the night’s hero didn’t hurt either.

Bonus: Crosby’s puck-juggling

2009: Pavel Datsyuk’s magic highlights Red Wings comeback
In the highest-scoring Winter Classic, Jiri Hudler scored twice for the Detroit Red Wings in a 6-4 come-from-behind victory at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

But we’ll seize any opportunity to show you a Datsyuk play, and this defence-splitting burst up the middle is a beauty:

2010: Marco Sturm’s OT winner
Boston’s Marco Sturm — who announced his retirement from professional hockey at the beginning of 2014 — was the hero at Fenway Park when he converted a sweet pass by Patrice Bergeron in the extra frame.

With the Bruins’ 2-1 victory over Philadelphia, Boston became the first home team to win the Classic, which served as a nice prelude to the 2010 playoffs, when the Flyers would get the last laugh. Philly rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final.

2011: Crosby gets blindsided
It was a Bettman nightmare of the sweatiest degree. The game’s marquee player being seriously injured at the game’s marquee event. And he didn’t even have the puck.

Thankfully for Crosby — and fans of excellence — he would return to the ice 20 games into the 2011-12 season. Fun fact: Despite only playing 41 games in 2010-11, Crosby racked up enough points (66) to lead all Penguins that season.

David Steckel played 425 NHL games, but he is destined to forever be remembered for this hit.

2012: Rangers victorious despite “disgusting” conspiracy between NBC, referees
Perhaps better known for its lead-up — Philadelphia goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov becoming a breakout personality on 24/7 and yet not even getting the start — the 2012 Classic was criticized by fiery New York coach John Tortorella.

Although Torts’ Rangers won 3-2, Henrik Lundqvist needed to stone Danny Briere on a penalty shot with just 19.6 seconds left in regulation to seal the deal.

“I’m not sure if NBC got together with the refs or what to turn this into an overtime game,” Tortorella said afterward. “For two good refs, I thought the game was reffed horribly.

“Maybe they wanted to get into overtime. I’m not sure if they had meetings about that or what. But we stood in there. I don’t want to… because they are good guys. I just thought it was, in that third period, it was disgusting.”

Tortorella was fined $30,000 for his comments.

2014: The picture-perfect Original Six gem
Michigan’s Big House hosted the big daddy of all Winter Classics, raising the bar to a level that may never be matched.

A cool 105,491 fans — primarily dividing the stadium in Red Wings red and Maple Leafs blue — plowed through a snowstorm to set the record for most attendees at a hockey game.

Hockeytown embraced the event like no other host, throwing two alumni games, and the game itself — waged under snow-globe conditions — was close, ending in a 3-2 shootout victory for Toronto.

The SportsBusiness Journal named the 2014 Winter Classic its “Sports Event of the Year.” All the sweeter after the game had been postponed a year due to the league’s ugly labour dispute.

2015: Toews gets shafted and Brouwer plays hero as Dad soaks in the sun
With 12.9 seconds left in a tie game and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews in the penalty box for a “horse—- call” (his words), the Capitals’ Troy Brouwer scores his first outdoor goal against the team that traded him to Washington in 2011.

Brouwer was instrumental in getting the Capitals to wear “CR” helmet decals in honour of Clint Reif. The player’s father, who is recovering from a stroke, was one of 42,832 inside a sunny Nationals Park.

“Knowing how my dad is right now,” Brouwer said. “He’s probably got a couple tears.”

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