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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 52 39 9 4 171 117 82
2 FLA 54 32 16 6 150 122 70
3 NYR 54 31 18 5 153 135 67
4 DET 54 28 18 8 136 132 64
5 NYI 52 28 18 6 145 129 62
6 TBL 53 29 20 4 140 127 62
7 BOS 53 28 19 6 153 146 62
8 PIT 53 27 19 7 138 135 61
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 MTL 55 27 24 4 147 145 58
11 CAR 54 24 21 9 130 142 57
12 OTT 55 25 24 6 154 169 56
13 PHI 52 23 20 9 122 137 55
14 BUF 54 21 27 6 124 146 48
15 CBJ 55 21 28 6 137 170 48
16 TOR 52 19 24 9 120 144 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
D. Larkin 53 18 20 26 38
H. Zetterberg 54 10 27 4 37
T. Tatar 53 16 17 0 33
G. Nyquist 54 14 16 0 30
P. Datsyuk 39 8 21 13 29
J. Abdelkader 54 14 13 -3 27
M. Green 46 4 17 -7 21
N. Kronwall 45 3 14 -10 17
B. Richards 40 5 11 7 16
D. DeKeyser 50 7 8 13 15
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
P. Mrazek 21 10 4 .934 1.94
J. Howard 7 8 4 .904 2.89