2013 Winter Classic at the Big House: Maple Leafs vs Red Wings (Update: It's Official)


We've know this for awhile now, but it's about to become officially official.

The 2013 Winter Classic is coming to the great state of Michigan.

The league has announced two press conferences scheduled for tomorrow regarding a "MAJOR announcement" about the Red Wings (can't imagine what it could be). The first presser will be at 10:30a ET at Comerica Park and the second presser will be 1:15p ET at Michigan Stadium. Both will be streamed on the Red Wings official website and NHL.com.

In a press conference this morning at Comerica Park in Detroit featuring the best owner in pro sports, the league and the Wings announced that the 2013 Winter Classic will indeed be held at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. There is a follow-up presser to be held at Michigan Stadium today at 1:15p ET where reps from Michigan will speak about the opportunity to host such an event.

Next January 1st, myself, J.J., Graham and 115,000 of our friends (and some enemies) will be packed inside the Big House in Ann Arbor to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs take on our beloved Detroit Red Wings in the biggest hockey spectacle ever. The game should easily break the current hockey attendance record of 104,173 that was set by Michigan State and Michigan at The Big Chill at the Big House in December 2010.

The Winter Classic will be the first to feature a team from outside the United States. The Maple Leafs history with the Red Wings, large fan base in both Canada and the United States, plus Toronto's close proximity to Michigan without a doubt factored into the leagues decision to include them. The game will feature two die hard fan bases that will easily sellout the game. I can't wait to see the aerial shots of the stadium and seeing giant sections of red (and a little bit of blue). And! Michigan Stadium (and the entire U of M campus) does not allow the sale of alcohol, but part of the agreement between the university and the NHL is to allow the sale of alcohol at the game. So if the Winter Classic is anything like H2H2, you'll want to be around the WIIM gang.

More on the event after the jump.

Downtown Detroit won't be shutout from the event. To appease Red Wings owner Mike Illitch, who owns the Detroit Tigers and Comerica Park, for not having the outdoor game downtown and in his ballpark, the league has decided to use Comerica to host the Alumni game, an AHL game, a couple OHL games, and the Great Lakes Invitational. The Winter Classic Hockeyfest will also be held downtown.

The AHL game will feature the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Toronto Marlies. The OHL games will reportedly feature the Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit, Windsor Spitfires, and London Knights. The Great Lakes Invitational will feature Michigan State, Michigan and most likely two of the following: Michigan Tech, Ferris State, or Western Michigan. There will also be high school and youth games held at Comerica. UPDATE: According to Helene St. James, the GLI will feature MSU, U of M, Michigan Tech, and Western Michigan

Of course, now the fun begins of trying to secure tickets (season ticket holders of the Wings, Leafs, and Michigan football will most likely have first dibs). The Winter Classic also means new sweaters for both teams. The NHL is going for it all to make money off this event and there is no way the two teams will be using sweaters they've already worn. The Wings history isn't filled with too many variations of the current set. I imagine we could see something like the NHL 75th anniversary throwbacks from the 1991-92 season or maybe they come up with some brand new throwback style sweater based off of a couple different eras.

At the moment, there is no word on whether the NHL and HBO will be teaming with the Wings and Leafs to produce another series of 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. Hopefully there will be some mention of it at tomorrow's press conference. I know, according to MLive's Ansar Khan(!), Mike Babcock and the team might not be thrilled with the idea.

As for being featured on HBO's all-access 24-7, Babcock said, "Ask Nick how many guys ate lunch with him (on the show NHL 36) You saw those cameras, you saw Nick. You never saw anyone else.''

And we can't forget about the most exciting part of the entire event besides the actual game....the Alumni game! We've got just under a year to speculate who is going to play in this thing. Let's reunite The Grind Line and see if Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe can overcome some old injuries to skate at least a shift. Maybe we'll see Sergei Fedorov return? And will The Captain come back even though he runs another NHL franchise?

The next year is going to be awesome.

Let's Go Red Wings.

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