Gooooooooooooooooooood morning/afternoon/evening Winging It In Motown! I hope everyone [who celebrated] had a fantastic Christmas holiday, and if not, at least relaxing day off. I very much enjoyed the David Burke Kitchen in NYC along with a little Chris Botti at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village. Not the typical Christmas, I know, but a very awesome evening as I spend some time off in New York with my family.
Anyway, let's talk business. The Winter Classic is right around the corner, but the Hockeytown Festival is finally here. While most attach the festival to the alumni game exclusively, there is so much more to the event than just two alumni games. The entirety of the festival is played on the outdoor ice at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. The Winter Classic, which is not officially part of the festival, will be taking place forty minutes to the west in Ann Arbor.*
For starters, the Great Lakes Invitational, normally played at The Joe, will feature four Michigan schools on December 27 and 28: University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University, and Western Michigan University. Michigan has the most GLI titles (15), followed closely by State (12). Michigan, by the way, happens to be the third seeded college team in the nation, making the tournament of rivals all the more exciting. Michigan will be without its top two scorers in Tyler Motte and Andrew Copp (who will both be at the World Junior Championships), as well as a stalwart center in J.T. Compher (injured) but the games are still going to be exciting as usual. For those who are looking for a quick introduction to College hockey in the Mitten, these are the games to see.
Junior hockey also gets a turn on the outdoor stage as the two local Detroit area teams will face off on December 29 in an Ontario Hockey League double header. Red Wings fans are in for a nice look at one of their own goaltending prospects, Jake Paterson of the Saginaw Spirit. Keep in mind that quite a few players will be missing from these games as a result of the WJC, but the games are essentially bargains. You cannot go wrong with a bunch of kids who are deathly excited of playing outdoor hockey. It'll be physical, it'll be up tempo, hell, it might be the best hockey you'll watch all week.
The Marlies and the Griffins will play the first half of their back to back at Comerica at 5 PM on Monday the 30th before heading back to Grand Rapids to slit each other's throats. The Griffins, despite half of their team playing in the NHL at the moment, are still too good for the AHL and will in all likelihood be extremely awesome to watch. Just ask Michelle or Jason about that one.
Finally, we have not one, but two alumni games for this year's Winter Festival, featuring the Maple Leafs and Red Wings of the past. The games will feature all time greats like Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Steve Yzerman. That double header is on New Year's Eve, just in time to screw your holiday plans and just watch some hockey. There's no guarantee that quality hockey will be played, and I have a feeling that Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby will score three goals apiece. Loser pays for dinner, I guess.
We'll be including a lot more material on the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor separately, but in case you weren't hyped up enough about two weeks of outdoor hockey, here's a preview video courtesy of the Wings to help you feel like a kid in the candy store:
Here's the full rundown of the 2013 Winter Festival :
Friday, December 27
Great Lakes Invitational
3:30 p.m. - Michigan State vs. Michigan Tech
7 p.m. - Western Michigan vs. Michigan
Saturday, December 28
Great Lakes Invitational (winners & losers of Friday's games)
3:30 p.m. - Consolation Game
7 p.m. - Championship Game
Sunday, December 29
Ontario Hockey League Doubleheader
1:30 p.m. - Windsor Spitfires vs. Saginaw Spirit
5 p.m. - London Knights vs. Plymouth Whalers
Monday, December 30
American Hockey League Match-up
5 p.m. - Toronto Marlies vs. Grand Rapids Griffins
Tuesday, December 31
Maple Leafs vs Red Wings Alumni Showdown
1 p.m. - Maple Leafs Alumni vs. Red Wings Alumni (first game)
3:30 p.m. - Maple Leafs Alumni vs. Red Wings Alumni (second game, different teams)
Wednesday, January 1, 2014*
NHL Winter Classic
1 p.m. - Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs (game to be broadcast on NBC)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
This week is where the fun starts and we don't want you to be left in the dark. Stay tuned to WIIM and all of our social networking feeds as we take you down the final stretch.
As always, LGRW.
[Editor's note: Jake Paterson will not play for the Saginaw Spirit in the Junior game, as he's currently overseas representing team Canada in the World Junior Championships. Mats Sundin will also be absent from the Leafs roster. The full list of alumni playing can be found here.]
This is part of a series of posts leading up to the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Feel free to check out the H2H3 pledge drive for the Children's Hospital of Michigan Foundation. You can also text KIDS to 85944 to donate $5 to make an easy donation (full details here).