There was already some well-founded speculation that the University of Michigan might be in the running to host the 2013 Winter Classic, but those murmurs are building to a rumble as Puck Daddy’s Jeff Arnold reports that the NHL and the college are in “advanced discussions” to bring the marquee event to the Big House.
Arnold’s anonymous source said that Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon was “not initially sold” on the idea but things progressed in the last few weeks “from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will.”
Naturally, that statement wasn’t made on the record but a Michigan official did admit that they’re “listening” to what the NHL has to say.
Big stage for the marquee event
The lure of holding the event in the huge, historic building is simple to the point of bluntness: the football stadium has the potential to pack in fans to a record-breaking level. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records recorded the most highly-attended hockey game at the Big House in 2011:
In 2011, Michigan Stadium hosted The Big Chill At The Big House, pitting college hockey rivals Michigan and Michigan State in the first outdoor game of its kind in Ann Arbor. The Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to officially calculate attendance, announcing a world record had been set with an official attendance of 104,173 fans.
The overall attendance record is 114,804 fans, which was a number established during a night college football game between Michigan and Notre Dame, according to Arnold.
Obviously, there’s a big leap between talks heating up and it actually coming to fruition. Here are a few hurdles that one or both sides need to clear:
- Michigan’s financial takeaway must be determined. (This factor justifies the speculation that the event might take place at Comerica Park, instead.)
- A source told Arnold that the Winter Classic would likely be the only game played at Michigan Stadium, which could be a drawback (although it would be hard to imagine there being no workaround whatsoever for that).
- The NHL would be responsible for building the rink, which didn’t happen at the NCAA outdoor game. (Something tells me the league has that base covered, though.)
Of those aforementioned factors, Michigan’s money cut sounds like the only real stumbling block, but that can obviously be a big one. Many of us are pretty happy with the Winter Classic regardless of the exact details, but let’s face it; there would definitely be something special about seeing such an event played in front of hundreds of thousands.
It’s quite possible that the NHL might reveal the location of the next Winter Classic during this month’s All-Star weekend, but we’ll see. How would you feel about the league’s marquee regular season event happening in the Big House, though?