Big Chill - Michigan State v Michigan

Rumors heat up regarding University of Michigan hosting 2013 Winter Classic


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.

Potential issues

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?

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”