ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- Practice day for the Winter Classic at the University of Michigan Stadium began with a bang when the long debated and discussed extension to Dion Phaneuf finally was made official by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Phaneuf signed a seven-year $49-million extension that includes a modified no-trade clause, in which the Maple Leafs captain will provide a list of teams he would be open to a trade each season. The trade provision was the final detail that needed to be agreed upon before the extension could be finalized.
Phaneuf likely could have commanded more on the open market in the summer. The main unrestricted free agent defencemen currently eligible include: Dan Boyle, Marek Zidlicky, Dan Girardi, Willie Mitchell, Andrei Markov, Brooks Orpik and Nick Schultz.
In the end, Phaneuf wanted to stay in Toronto.
"You do have meetings about if it does go the other way," said Phaneuf, whose Maple Leafs play the Detroit Red Wings in the Winter Classic Wednesday on Hockey Night in Canada (12:30 p.m. ET). "But it was an easy decision for me to stay here and be part of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I really believe that we're building something special. I believe that we've grown since the time I've been here till now was night and day. It was an easy decision for me and one that is a very big decision, and one that I'm very happy with in the way that I chose to go."
The Maple Leafs now have six core players locked up long term with a combined $33.95-million in annual salary.
Road team success
Of the seven previous outdoor NHL games, the home team has won only twice and only once in five New Year's Day games. The Calgary Flames beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 at McMahon Stadium in the 2011 Heritage Classic, and the Boston Bruins won 2-1 in overtime over the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime in 2010.
The lack of success for the home team wasn't lost on Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. He believes the hoopla for the home team with families and friends in town for the big game has an effect on the home team's focus.
"Let's just go with what's going to happen in my house," the Detroit coach said. "So my wife's maiden name is Dunham, and my kids say nobody parties like a Dunham. So you can just imagine in my house tonight.
"That's why a couple blocks down the road I got myself a hotel room, because when 11 p.m. comes, they're not going to care that the Winter Classic is tomorrow. They're still going to be on time.
"So the home team has won one [Winter Classic]. We've gone through this with our players. They know. There is an opportunity in our schedule for you to have a heck of a New Year's Eve party on New Year's Day. Make a decision. But if you're counting on your family to do it for you, I don't like your chances. That's my theory."
Babcock has been to a few University of Michigan football games at Michigan Stadium, known as the Big House, and he hopes the football atmosphere can be matched on Wednesday.
"If you haven't been to a football [game] Saturday here, then you should put it on your bucket list," he said. "It's the best sporting event. I've been to the Olympic Games, the World Series, the Stanley Cup. I've been to a few things to say the least. [A Michigan football game] is probably the best sporting event I've ever been to, bar none. Can it transfer into hockey? I assume it can."
Red Wings veteran Daniel Cleary lost 10 teeth when he was hit in the mouth with a puck in a game against the Florida Panthers on Saturday. A tooth lost on the bottom row left a nerve exposed and Cleary was in some discomfort when he skated against the wind in practice on Tuesday.
"My concern now is how the wind feels on my tooth," said Cleary, who tried to skate with his mouth closed when he was against the wind. "I don't want to make it a bigger deal than it is, but it's uncomfortable. The wind was a big factor."
Because the Red Wings didn't touch down in Detroit until 3 a.m. on Tuesday after their game in Nashville, Cleary had not seen a dentist to get his mouth worked on. He was unsure after practice if he would have enough time to see a dentist on New Year's Eve.
A fifth timer
Luke Glendening played for Grand Rapids in the AHL outdoor game at Comerica Park on Monday evening. When driving home he received a phone call that he was being recalled by the Red Wings and will play in the Winter Classic.
So this will be his fifth outdoor game. The former Michigan Wolverine played in the game at the Big House three years ago and in two more college games at Ohio State and Wisconsin. But nothing compared to the Wolverines 5-0 win over Michigan State at the Big House.
"To play at my old school is awesome," Glendening said. "To walk down that tunnel, you don't see the crowd until you get to the bottom, but you certainly hear them. It was pretty loud."
Snow in forecast
Weather reports say the forecast for New Year's Day in Ann Arbor calls for 80 per cent chance of light snow, a high of minus-10 Celsius with a wind chill factor that will make it feel more like minus-13 Celsius. There also is expected to be a snowfall overnight.
If the weather is a factor, the teams will switch ends at the 10-minute mark of the third period and, if required, halfway through the overtime frame.
The reports from the Red Wings and Maple Leafs were the ice conditions were good for their practices on Tuesday. NHLPA representatives Rob Zamuner and Steve Webb will be rink side to discuss with NHL officials prior to and during the game as to whether ice conditions are good enough to hold the game.
NHL chief operating officer John Collins revealed that a record 105,500 tickets have been sold for this outdoor game. The previous largest crowd for a hockey game was 104,173 for the Big Chill, an NCAA game at the Big House between Michigan and Michigan State on Dec. 11, 2010.
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