After months of speculation and discussion, the location for the 2013 Winter Classic was confirmed today in a press conference held by the NHL.
The game will take place between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings on January 1st at ‘The Big House’ (The University of Michigan stadium) and is expected to set attendance records for an NHL game as well as an outdoor hockey game.
The current outdoor record is 104, 411, which was set in a game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State held in December of 2010 at the University of Michigan campus.
The NHL’s commissioner Gary Bettman weighed in on the game saying, “The meeting of these two ‘Original Six’ rivals, at this iconic venue, will lift this Winter Classic to incomparable heights. The demand to be there will be so great that this event could only be held at ‘The Big House.”
This matchup is projected to sell upwards of 115,000 tickets, which would dwarf the mark set at the first Winter Classic held in Buffalo in 2008, which had an attendance of 71, 217.
Leafs GM Brian Burke coined the game, “Hockeytown vs. The Center of the Hockey Universe,” which should make for a solid match up and create a great deal of hype around the game.
The Red Wings have been a perennial contender and threat to win the Stanley Cup, year in and year out. They haven’t missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season and have won four championships in that period. They currently sit 1st in the Western Conference and look polished to challenge for this year’s cup. They have the elite talent and depth at about every position, which will most certainly put them in a similar position of contention next year.
The Leafs, on the other hand, have been one of the most disappointing of the original six teams in recent history, failing to make the post-season in the post-lockout era. Their last appearance came in the 2003-04 season where they were eliminated in the second round and their last Cup win dates back to the 1966-67 season.
The team has been rejuvenated as of late under the guidance of Brian Burke and currently sits in 7th place in a tight Eastern Conference race. They are young, fast, and gritty, but are at least a few years away being a contender for Lord Stanley’s mug. Despite their lack of recent success, their fan base remains the largest and most widespread of any team in the NHL.
Toronto holds the edge in the all-time series against Detroit by the narrowest of margins: 276-275.
One of the most exciting things for Wings and Leafs fans alike is that they will get a deeper look into their teams through HBO’s 24/7. This increasingly popular show has showcased teams leading up to the showdown at the Winter classic and has given fans a window into their team that they have never had before. This has given fans a more in depth look at the personalities of their favorite players and has been immensely popular since its inception two years ago, and is just as, if not more exciting than the game itself.
The Leafs will be the first Canadian team to participate in a Winter Classic on American soil and the first to be profiled on 24/7.
This event won’t be limited to this one game between old divisional foes. Comerica Park, in downtown Detroit, will be hub of the festivities in the week following Christmas leading up to the main event on the 1st of January. Some of the events to be held at Comerica include:
- All four NCAA college games as a part of the Great Lakes Invitational Tournament.
- Two OHL games tentatively scheduled between: Plymouth Whalers vs London Knights and Saginaw Spirit vs Windsor Spitfires.
- A regular season game between the Red Wings and Leafs AHL affiliates: Toronto Marlies vs. Grand Rapids Griffins.
- A Legends game, featuring Red Wings and Leafs old-timers/alumni.
- A number of high school and youth hockey games.
The featured game has the potential to be a spectacle unlike any other.
With Detroit’s proximity to Toronto (about three hours by car), expect an even distribution of fans from both sides to be attending the game. This will be the closest geographically two teams participating in the Classic have ever been to each other.
With both sets of fans as passionate as they are about their respective teams, anticipate tensions to be running high in Detroit for this clash between old Norris Division rivals.