ANN ARBOR — The secret had been let out, but the moments following the Winter Classic confirmed it: Jimmy Howard will be an Olympian.
Detroit’s goalie was one of three goalies and 25 players named to the 2014 United States Olympic team that will play in February in Sochi, Russia.
The USOC officially announced the roster Wednesday at Olympic Stadium, a day after the Detroit Free Press reported that Howard made the team.
“This is really surreal,” Howard said. “It’s been a great 24 hours, very memorable for the team and for myself.”
Howard is 6-9-8 in 23 games this season, with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .907 saves percentage. A knee injury in December sidelined him for nearly three weeks, and he returned to Detroit’s lineup Monday in a 6-4 loss at Nashville.
"November wasn't very kind to me,” Howard said. “Now it's just about getting out there, getting into a rhythm."
Among some of the players who did not make the cut: Ottawa right wing Bobby Ryan, (18 goals and 18 assists) and Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, who is tied for third in the NHL in wins (20) and tied for second in shutouts (3).
“It was the hardest experience I’ve ever had,” Team USA general manager David Poile said. “It’s reflected not only on paper but in the names we’ve left off the team.”
FOR THE RECORD: Representatives from Guinness World Records were on hand to verify if, in fact, the crowd set a world record for the largest confirmed audience for a hockey game — an announced attendance of 105,491.
Heavy snow hit northwestern Ohio and southeastern Michigan on Wednesday, which may have deterred or delayed some fans. Snowy weather contributed to accidents on the roads Wednesday morning, and the record was in question before the start of the game and has yet not been validated as a world record.
“The Big Chill” on Dec. 10, 2010, at Michigan Stadium set the Guinness World Record as the largest confirmed audience (104,173) for a hockey game.
FUTURE SITES: The 2014 Winter Classic might have been a warmup for the Maple Leafs.
Sportsnet.ca reported Wednesday that Toronto’s BMO Field could host a future New Year’s Day outdoor game.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has been in discussions with Toronto civic leaders to renovate and expand the stadium, the home of Toronto FC of Major League Soccer, to host a future Winter Classic.
Washington will host the 2015 Winter Classic, and NHL chief operating officer John Collins said Tuesday that the Washington Capitals’ opponent has yet to be decided, as does a site. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Nationals Park in Washington will be the likely host of the 2015 Winter Classic.
COLD, COLDER, COLDEST: Prior to Wednesday’s Winter Classic, the previous five New Year’s Day games had an average temperature of 39.1 degrees. According to the National Weather Service, it was 12 degrees Wednesday afternoon in Ann Arbor, with a winter weather advisory.
The warmest Winter Classic was 2011 in Pittsburgh, when it was 51.7 degrees.
The coldest Winter Classic before Wednesday was 2008 in Buffalo, when it was 31.1 degrees.