Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch is loyal to Detroit. It’s where his teams play and his businesses are headquartered. It’s his hometown.
With that in mind, it shouldn’t be shocking that Brendan Savage reports Ilitich’s first choice for the 2013 Winter Classic was Detroit’s Comerica Park rather than Ann Arbor’s Big House. Ultimately, Ilitch acknowledged the obvious economic advantages of having about 115,000 fans vs. about 40,000, so the Big House won out.
It didn’t come without some major concessions, though – namely, all the events that will happen at Comerica Park. NHL.com’s Brian Hedger discusses what’s scheduled for the weekend of the 2013 event.
That rink will play host to a number of hockey-related events over a two-week span leading up to the big game in Ann Arbor — including the NHL Alumni Showdown, the tradition-rich Great Lakes Invitational college tournament, two games between Ontario Hockey League teams, one game between the American Hockey League affiliates of Detroit and Toronto, high school and youth contests and even an open skate.
Two rinks, one common goal: To celebrate the sport of hockey at all levels and make sure that Ilitch’s beloved hometown gets its share of attention and economic advantages from hosting what’s become an NHL signature event.
In other words, everyone wins – including the city of Detroit.
According to a report from Ansar Khan of Mlive.com, the 2013 Winter Classic is all set to take place at Michigan Stadium.
Khan reports that the game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will be set to take place on January 1, 2013 at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He reports that Wings owner Mike Ilitch wanted to do the game at Comerica Park in Detroit, but the chance to have over 110,000 pack the stadium for the outdoor event was too alluring for the league to turn down.
To make things more Detroit-centric, a second rink will be built at Comerica Park to host the Winter Classic alumni game and possibly the Great Lakes Invitational, an annual college hockey tournament, as well.
Khan reports that the announcement of the game will be made official in February after the Red Wings return home from a four-game road trip through Phoenix and Western Canada.
If the report is true, and there’s no reason to think it will be disproved, the league would be better off making the announcement sooner than later. This past Winter Classic wasn’t made official until the season began and many of the facets of the game were poorly kept secrets, a fact Gary Bettman acknowledged when the game was made official.
This would be the first time a Canadian team played in the Winter Classic and given Toronto’s relative proximity to Detroit and Ann Arbor, holding the game at The Big House makes a world of sense because Leafs fans will crash the border in droves to attend the game.
While we’re focused on this year’s Winter Classic, the debate as to who will play in and host the next one is waiting to be had. The Detroit Red Wings are hoping to settle that debate before it even begins in earnest.
Ansar Khan of Mlive.com reports that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch is in talks with the league to try and host the Winter Classic in either 2013 or 2014. Working in Detroit’s favor here is that there are a couple of places they could host the event. The NHL could either keep the event in downtown Detroit and play at Comerica Park, home of baseball’s Tigers, or head out to Ann Arbor and play at Michigan Stadium and make a run at breaking attendance records at the 110,000+ seat stadium.
Having it at Comerica Park is what the Wings owner prefers and that’s thanks to him also being owner of the Tigers. Keeping that money earned from the event in house is nice to do. The spectacle that could be had at Michigan Stadium, depending on who the Red Wings’ opponent was, could be too alluring for the NHL to avoid.
With Detroit and New York as the next two logical cities to host the Winter Classic and New York being in this year’s game, Detroit seems all too logical to be the next city to host the game. We’re a long way off from getting that figured out, but Detroit trying to make a claim now makes all too much sense.