SUN Hockey Pool

NHL notes: Winter Classic sets North American TV record

The Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., set...

The Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., set a record as most-watched TV hockey game. The game set a record for live attendance, too. (JACK BOLAND/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:45 PM ET

Wednesday’s Winter Classic has established another benchmark.

With the Winter Classic already holding the record for the largest crowd to attend a hockey game at 105,491, the New Year’s Day event was the most-watched regular season NHL game, with 8.234 million TV viewers, the league announced Friday.

Combining numbers from CBC (3.57 million), RDS (260,000) and NBC (4.404 million) make up the new high-water mark.

The Toronto Maple Leafs won the game, 3-2, in a shootout over the Detroit Red Wings.

“We knew an NHL Winter Classic at the Big House with the Red Wings-Maple Leafs rivalry would be special, but what unfolded was extraordinary,” NHL chief operating officer John Collins said.

The 2011 Winter Classic, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, was the previous record holder with 6.6 million people tuning in.

THREE GAMES FOR MACKENZIE

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Derek MacKenzie has been slapped with a three-game suspension after “recklessly” checking Oliver Ekman-Larsson from behind Thursday night.

MacKenzie drove “forcefully into Ekman-Larsson’s back” to cause a “violent collision with the boards,” the NHL said Friday in a video reviewing the hit.

Ekman-Larsson, a Phoenix Coyotes blueliner, suffered an upper-body injury on the play.

The NHL said it landed on a three-game suspension based on three factors: the hit was clearly boarding, Ekman-Larsson was hurt, and MacKenzie has no history of being suspended or fined.

MacKenzie, 32, has four points and 20 penalty minutes in 33 games this season.

SABRES CLAIM KONOPKA

That didn’t take long.

Placed on waivers Thursday by the Minnesota Wild, journeyman Zenon Konopka found a new NHL home Friday morning.

The Buffalo Sabres have picked up the 33-year-old tough guy, who hails from nearby Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

“He was growing up with the Sabres, so it’s pretty exciting for him,” Konopka’s agent, Kevin Epp, told the Buffalo News.

Konopka, an elite faceoff man, has won 65.7% of his draws this season. He is also familiar with the penalty box, having racked up 1,049 penalty minutes over a 323-game career.

“I talked to (Sabres president of hockey operations) Pat LaFontaine, and they value what I’m able to do on the ice and off,” Konopka told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

Konopka, who is now with his seventh team, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

KISS AT OUTDOOR GAME

Rockers KISS will be part of sports history later this month when they perform at the first NHL game to be held outdoors in Los Angeles, Calif.

The band will share the stage with the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, who meet at Dodgers Stadium on Jan. 25.

KISS will perform before the game and during the first intermission.

“Los Angeles is the premier hub for sports and entertainment in this country and we are honoured to be part of an event that fuses both by rocking the first-ever outdoor NHL game in L.A.,” KISS frontman Gene Simmons said.

Simmons and bandmate Paul Stanley are also behind a new arena football team, the LA KISS, who will play home games at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

BRIEFLY

The St. Louis Blues have placed forward Adam Cracknell on waivers to make room for Ryan Reaves, who has been activated off injured reserve ... Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (23 points) has been named the NHL’s first star of the month for December. Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby (23 points) was named runner-up, while Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller (.929 save percentage) received third-star honours ... Detroit Red Wings defenceman Alexey Marchenko has been recalled from Grand Rapids of the AHL. Marchenko will take the spot of Danny DeKeyser, who is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury ... The New Jersey Devils have placed forward Mattias Tedenby on waivers. Tedenby was chosen 24th overall by the Devils at the 2008 NHL draft ... Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan, sidelined with Rocky Mountain fever since Dec. 4, has been cleared to play again. Doan will return to the lineup Saturday versus the Philadelphia Flyers ... St. Louis Blues defenceman Jordan Leopold has been activated from injured reserve. Leopold has been nursing a right hand injury since Nov. 7.


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