DETROIT — It was big, cavernous and cold.
And perhaps the memory of a lifetime.
Traverse City West and TC Central's experience at the Hockeytown Winter Festival was one that won't soon fade from 41 players' minds, let alone the coaches and parents.
The game played on a temporary outdoor rink on the infield of the Detroit Tigers' Comerica Park was part of the run-up to the Winter Classic match-up between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. But for those players and coaches, it was the headliner.
"You're looking around and you're seeing an outfield," TC Central senior forward Cam Givens said. "It's all a bit different. You look up and you're seeing the skyline of Detroit."
Both teams arrived early to watch a Red Wings public practice on the very same surface some three and a half hours earlier.
"We showed up early and the Wings were practicing, the kids got to take it all in, (Red Wings broadcaster and former NHL player) Mickey Redmond came in and talked to the boys," West coach Jeremy Rintala said. "So they had a chance to get used to the atmosphere. Once they got out there, they didn't feel nervous and excited. It was just a great experience. We feel really lucky to be a part of it."
Central and West players used the same visitor's stalls that Major League All-Stars have used.
"Just showing up there and walking out onto the ice rink," West sophomore goaltender Brendan Lacharite said. "Playing under the lights at Comerica Park, outside. It felt like another pond hockey game, except there's refs, so it's way more realistic.
"I felt honored to sit in a locker room where so many great players have been. Once we took everything in, it was game — focus and get ready."