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It was a family affair for Howard in Ann Arbor

Wings' goalie played for U.S. development program near the Big House

Thursday, 01.2.2014 / 11:16 AM ET / News
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It was a family affair for Howard in Ann Arbor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Since the details of the 2014 NHL Winter Classic were first announced, players on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Red Wings have been fielding numerous ticket requests from friends and family. But for Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, the big game at Michigan Stadium will be a huge moment for his family that was made even more special after the game ended.

Howard lived in Ann Arbor while playing with the United States National Team Development Program as a teenager, so he had plenty of old friends in attendance. But the Big House also hosted four generations of Howard's family for the Winter Classic. Howard's grandfather, James Howard I, was in attendance, along with his father, James Howard II, and his two-year-old son, James Howard IV.

For Grandpa Howard, known as J-One among friends and family, it's an incredible event that he didn't exactly envision when the Detroit goalie was a child. A wrestling coach at Oswego State University in western New York, the eldest Howard had different plans for J-Three.

"We kept wanting him to wrestle, but he gravitated to the ice and we couldn't get him off the ice," James Howard I said. "We allowed our kids to do whatever they wanted. When he [James Howard II] was young, he wanted to skate all the time, so we let him skate. We couldn't get him to the mat, he kept going to the ice."

The man known in the Howard family as J-Two helped groom his son's hockey development in western New York. And he was thrilled to be back in Ann Arbor to see his son play in one of the sports greatest spectacles.

"It's going to be stressful, but we're just going to take it all in and have fun," James Howard II said.

The day could be made even more stressful when the United States Olympic team is named after the game. If Howard is included on the roster, it would be the culmination of years of training and hard work for the 29-year-old raised in the small border town of Ogdensburg, N.Y.

"That would be great. He's worked so hard to accomplish what he's accomplished," said Howard II, before the game. "Growing up, he was sort of under the radar, nobody really knew about him where we lived. Our community is only about 9,000 people."

The Detroit goalie's father will likely toss and turn the entire day when his son competes on hockey's grandest stage. As for his 80-year-old grandfather, he's just having a good time and enjoying a special day for his family.

"I don't get stressed anymore. When you're 80 years old, you don't get stressed," James Howard I said. "You let it flow, man. You let it flow."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 56 28 21 7 124 124 63
10 PHI 54 24 20 10 128 140 58
11 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
12 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 54 18 20 25 38
H. Zetterberg 55 10 28 5 38
T. Tatar 54 16 17 -1 33
G. Nyquist 55 14 16 -1 30
P. Datsyuk 40 9 21 14 30
J. Abdelkader 55 14 15 -2 29
M. Green 47 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 41 5 11 6 16
D. DeKeyser 51 7 8 12 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 21 10 5 .933 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89