NHL announce Wings vs Leafs in 2013 Winter Classic at Big House
Teams to play at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor
The NHL made it official Thursday: The Detroit Red Wings will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
The Winter Classic will be Jan. 1, 2013, with an alternate date of Jan. 2.
In the weeks leading up to the game, a second rink will be put up in Comerica Park.
“The unique thing about all of this, our Winter Classic will have a double venue, that makes it so much more special,” said former Detroit Red Wing, Kris Draper.
The rink inside of Comerica Park will be home to the Alumni Showdown along with the Great Lakes Invitational. Businesses and companies will also have access to the rink for private events, it will also be available to the public for open skating.
Along with the Winter Classic comes Hockeytown Winter Fest, a rumored five day festival that will surround Comerica Park in the days prior to the big game at the big house.
“Downtown is going to be so engaging, the entertainment district will have so much going on, hotels are getting in on the action, there will be something for everyone to do,” said Christopher Ilitch.
Local 4 has also learned The Fox Theatre will get involved with Winter Classic events, along with a possible New Years Eve Party at Joe Louis Arena.
“The couple weeks before the Big House game is going to be great for the city, kids and big kids,” said Draper.
Over 150 thousand people are expected to come to the city for Hockeytown Winter Fest, including 50 thousand Maple Leafs fans.
On Wednesday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents authorized the athletic department to seek a contract with the NHL that would allow the league to hold next year's showcase at Michigan Stadium. The NHL has offered to pay up to $3 million for a license to use the iconic college football stadium, according to the recommendation approved by the board.
A liquor license would be obtained so alcohol could be served at the event, and the NHL would bring its "advertising and other sponsorship arrangements" into the stadium.
Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have all hosted the Winter Classic, but a game at Michigan Stadium could draw the league's largest crowd.
The Wolverines and rival Michigan State attracted a Guinness World Record 104,173 people for a hockey game on Dec. 11, 2010.
This year's Winter Classic at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park drew 46,967, and the New York Rangers beat the host Flyers 3-2.
No Canadian team has participated in a Winter Classic, although there have been two outdoor Heritage Classics north of the border: Montreal at Edmonton in 2003, and Montreal at Calgary last year.
The game at Edmonton was the league's first outdoor regular-season game, although it came two years after Michigan State hosted Michigan in an outdoor hockey game at the Spartans' football stadium in front of 74,544 people.
Those teams met nearly a decade later in Ann Arbor and smashed the world attendance record. At that point, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said the event was unlikely to become an annual tradition, but it could potentially be played in four-year cycles so future generations of Michigan players could participate.
The venerable Big House has undergone changes recently, such as the addition of permanent lights. Michigan hosted its first prime-time football game at the stadium last season, beating Notre Dame in dramatic fashion.
Although Detroit hasn't hosted the Winter Classic, the Red Wings played in it in 2009, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 at Wrigley Field — the home of baseball's Chicago Cubs.
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