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1950s / Red Wings vs Prisoners - 1954
While occasional outdoor games have been all the rage in the NHL since 2003, the first known outdoor game played by an NHL team occurred on Tuesday, February 2, 1954 when the Detroit Red Wings played a team comprised of inmates from Marquette Branch Prison. The correctional facility in the state's upper peninsula housed some of the toughest convicts in Michigan. Most were confined to their cells 23 hours per day. Red Wings owner Jack Adams surprisingly agreed to the game--some say it was a personal favor for some notable inmates. A few Red Wings initially feared for their personal safety, but the warden assured them they were in no danger. "We were told we'd be special guests," recalled Ted Lindsay. "The inmates were looking forward to it. If anyone tried to harm us, he'd be dead in two minutes." The prisoners were put to work make to make a viable outdoor rink inside the prison walls. The weather cooperated nicely, with 22-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and no wind, which made the natural ice perfect. Several Red Wings said the ice surface was better than was what found in some NHL buildings. The game was not even close to being competitive. After the Red Wings jumped out to an 18-0 lead after the first period, the score was no longer kept. Several Red Wings joined the prison team for the final two periods to make things a little bit more competitive. Nevertheless, the prisoners presented the victorious Red Wings with a bucket modified to look like a trophy as a memento of their visit and easy triumph. Detroit would win a more substantial trophy--the Stanley Cup--that spring.