Never one for subtlety, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke put the 2013 Winter Classic in grandiose context on Thursday morning.
“It’s Hockeytown versus the center of the hockey universe,” he told NHL Live. “We’re really excited about this, obviously. Two passionate fanbases, but I can guarantee you’ll see a lot of blue in the Big House on Jan. 1.”
“A lot of blue” refers to the wave of Maple Leafs fans expected to crash Detroit for the Winter Classic. The cities are close to one another (approximately a four-hour drive) and based on the comments from Gary Bettman, there will be plenty of opportunities for both home and visiting supporters to get inside the Big House on New Year’s Day.
The NHL commissioner stated that 115,000 tickets will be made available for the 2013 Winter Classic, though he did say even with that amount, “we still won’t have enough to satisfy the demand.”
“The first meeting between a team from Detroit and a team from Toronto took place on Jan. 4, 1927. The Toronto Saint Patricks defeated the Detroit Cougars, 2-1, at a rink across the river in Windsor, Ont,” Bettman added. “When that game was played, the Big House was under construction. It opened Oct. 1 of that year, with a capacity of 72,000 — a capacity that’s grown to over 110,000 today.
“A capacity we expect to challenge, and surpass, when the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs resume their historic rivalry.”
Huge attendance numbers are also being projected for Comerica Park, which will host a variety of events during the Hockeytown Winter Festival:
— The Great Lakes Invitational tournament, featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan.
— American Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League games.
— High school and youth games.
— The annual alumni contest and public skating.
Bettman said the events at Comerica Park should bring between 150,000-200,000 people to downtown Detroit.