Rumors heat up regarding University of Michigan hosting 2013 Winter Classic

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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?

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.