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Winter Classic to feature two former Michigan hockey players

File Photo/Daily
Mike Komisarek will return to Ann Arbor in a Maple Leafs jersey to play in the 2013 Winter Classic. Buy this photo

By Steve Zoski, Daily Sports Writer
Published June 25, 2012

Two former Michigan hockey players will be wearing blue again in Ann Arbor.

Mike Brown and Mike Komisarek will visit Tree City as National Hockey League players for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they play against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 NHL Winter Classic in the Big House on New Year’s Day.

Brown, a right-winger, played for Michigan from 2004-2005, while assistant captain and defenseman Komisarek played from 2001-2002. Neither player graduated from the University, leaving to pursue their NHL careers.

They will now have the opportunity to play at the University’s most hallowed sporting ground, just down the street from where they competed as Wolverines for coach Red Berenson, who hopes to catch up with the players sometime around the event.

In his two seasons as a Wolverine, Komisarek played in 81 games, scoring 15 goals, collecting 31 assists and racking up 147 penalty minutes.

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens seventh overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft, Komisarek signed a five-year deal with the Leafs in 2009. He has played in 515 NHL games, scoring 14 goals, collected 63 assists, and has served 663 penalty minutes.

Brown has played six NHL seasons, spending two years with the Vancouver Canucks, two years with the Anaheim Ducks, and the last two seasons with Toronto. He was drafted 159th overall by Vancouver in the 2004 NHL entry draft, and spent several seasons playing for the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

Komisarek, who was born in West Islip, New York, missed playing for the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics due to an injury.

He played in the Cold War outdoor hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State held at Spartan Stadium in 2001, though, and is also remembered by Michigan hockey fans for the ‘Molly Incident’ and for using his size to deliver bone crushing hits.

Brown said he and Komisarek sometimes reminisce about their days at Michigan even though they didn't play at the same time.

“We talk about it every once in a while, we kind of joke around and we both played for the same coach,” Brown said. “Most of the guys that played with (Komisarek) I know, and some of the guys I played with he knows. We both went through the same experience, so it’s something we can always talk about.”

Brown said he is excited to play a professional hockey game in the storied Big House.

“It’s going to be pretty cool, I’ve been to a couple of the football games there,” he said. “It’s a legendary place, and to play a hockey game there is unbelievable. Especially playing in that town for college hockey, so I guess it means a lot.”

Brown noted that the matchup against the ‘Original Six’ rival Red Wings will be a memorable one, adding that the venue might not be the neutral site it is supposed to be.

“(The Red Wings) have a strong team and it’s (pretty much) their home town,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of experience against that team so it should be interesting.”

Brown said he’s pretty sure Leafs fans will cross the border and visit Ann Arbor in droves.

“It’s not too far of a drive, so with our dedicated fans, I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t support us.”

He also noted he enjoyed his time as a Wolverine, and is excited to return to the city and campus where he donned the block ‘M.’

“I loved playing for Michigan,” Brown said. “We always had a pretty good fan base, especially by the time I got there. I can’t complain, I know there's some hockey fans on campus, (and) it’ll be fun.”

Down the hall in his office, sitting across from a wall displaying pictures of former Michigan players in the NHL, is Berenson, who said he remembered coaching Brown and Komisarek.

The Wolverines’ legendary coach noted that Brown was a good player and a good person.

“Mike Brown was a real hard-working, hard-nosed forward,” Berenson said. “He left after his sophomore year. He’s worked his way back up the NHL. (He’s a) good kid — he comes back in the summers, we see him at the golf outing, he’s from Chicago originally but he seems to be a well-liked player in Toronto,” Berenson said.

Berenson said Brown and Komisarek will enjoy returning to Ann Arbor for hockey.

“(They’ll) love coming back here,” he said.