It’s rinks like this one where Niklas Kronwall, Danny Dekeyser and Jimmy Howard got their starts.
"I don’t even remember the name of the rink where I played, it’s been 20 years or so,” Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard said. "But I do remember there is something special about playing outside with your buddies."
Clark Park has the only regulation-sized outdoor rink in the city of Detroit and it’s where countless local kids have been exposed to the sport. But the facilities were in desperate need of renovations.
“We had a 35-year-old Zamboni,” said Steve Tobacman, Clark Park Coalition president. “There are things we’ve really needed for a long time.”
This is where the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and others stepped up as part of the Winter Classic Legacy Initiative. The group donated nearly $200,000 for a new Zamboni machine, new lights, new boards, new refrigeration system, among other things.
The NHL usually donates to the area where that year’s Winter Classic is held. Brian Jennings, NHL Chief Marketing Officer, said they got the idea to donate to the rink at Clark Park Coalition through the Red Wings.
"A big part of the Winter Classic and the lead-up with the Winter Festival is selling the game of hockey,” said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. “It starts at the grass roots level."
So long after the 2014 Winter Classic is over, its legacy will live on.
"Now, there’s a chance for youth hockey to really grow here," Babcock said.
“It means a lot to the kids who skate here,” Eric Bruinsma said. "Because not a lot of kids have the opportunity to play hockey and now they do."