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NHL to hold a ‘fan festival’ outside Michigan Stadium ahead of Winter Classic

Those of us who have spent significant chunks of our life in Ann Arbor have one regret about the Winter Classic's timing: while January 1st may be a fine date in terms of a "crowd control" perspective because A2 will be absent about 60,000 University of Michigan faculty and students who will mostly be out of town on a holiday break, the city's visitors won't receive a full sense of what a bustling, dynamic and energetic city Ann Arbor really is.

The city is planning on holdling a "puck drop" on New Year's Eve to give those who will be spending the new year in Ann Arbor a downtown celebration, but the Hockeytown Winter Festival's taking place 45 minutes away in Detroit, so I was wondering whether the NHL would do anything to make a partially empty city feel a little less empty.

This morning, the NHL informed the public that it's "filling in the blank" on its exam with at least a game-day effort's worth of fan-friendly activities:

NHL to host free fan festival outside of Michigan Stadium to celebrate 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic

"Spectator Plaza" Offers Host of Attractions for Fans of All Ages as League and Its Partners Activate at the Much-Anticipated New Year’s Day Game

NEW YORK -- The National Hockey League, in conjunction with the City of Ann Arbor, will extend the celebration of the Jan. 1 outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs with its official 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Spectator Plaza, a free fan festival just outside the gates of Michigan Stadium on the University of Michigan campus.

From 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Jan. 1, just prior to puck drop, part of the Michigan Stadium parking lot near Gate 1 will transform into an outdoor hockey and entertainment festival for fans of all ages, with live musical performances; interactive hockey-themed attractions, prizes and giveaways; food and beverages; and merchandise tents with an extensive selection of officially-licensed 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic merchandise and collectibles.

As the League and its partners announce their fan activation plans for New Year's Day, attractions at Spectator Plaza will include:

· Bridgestone's Consumer Interactive Tire Experience, where fans can get in the game and play EA Sports NHL 14, get an NHL Winter Classic photo taken inside the Bridgestone Testimonial Booth, receive advice on the perfect tire for their needs and become educated on each tire sub-brand. Fans also can enter into The Ultimate Journey Sweepstakes (by completing a short survey) for a chance to win an exclusive Bridgestone vacation package.

· Coors Light, the Official Beer of the NHL, will have two professional ice sculptors carving five-foot-tall Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs logos during the pre-game festivities in Spectator Plaza, with ice-cold Coors Light available for purchase to fans 21 years and older.

· McDonald's will be serving its Premium Roast Coffee for free at Spectator Plaza to help keep visitors and fans warm.

· Fans can "drive to the net" at Spectator Plaza with Honda and take photos scoring the game-winning goal at the Official Vehicle of the NHL's interactive tent. The new, redesigned Honda Odyssey also will be on display.

· Verizon will showcase the NHL GameCenter mobile app and other innovations. Visitors to the Verizon tent also will have the opportunity to win special prizes, check out exclusive content and receive a commemorative 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic bracelet.

· At the fast-acting Advil tent, fans can enter for a chance to win a special edition air-brushed goalie mask being created live by an artist well-known in the industry, get game-ready with eye-black and temporary tattoos for kids, and pick up a sample of new fast-acting Advil, the Official Pain Reliever of the NHL.

· ANCO Wiper Blades, Official Wiper Blades of the NHL, will test fans' accuracy in a Street Hockey Tune-Up at the ANCO tent. Fans who hit four targets without missing the net will win a coupon for free ANCO wipers. Visitors also will be able to enter for a chance to win free wiper blades and can learn about ANCO's world-class wiper technologies.

· Fans can step into the virtual FOX Sports Detroit studio to "snap" a photo of themselves broadcasting a game. The FOX Sports Detroit Girls will be on hand to take photos with fans and sign autographs; FOX Sports' Cleatus the robot is expected to make a special appearance.

· NHL GameCenter LIVE will showcase a sports lounge featuring a product demo center where spectators can experience NHL GameCenter LIVE and NHL Vault on a variety of devices and screens, including tablets, smartphones and Xbox 360. While they watch, fans can take their best shot on the NHL GameCenter LIVE air hockey table for a chance to win a free prize

· At the NHL Network and Xfinity interactive area, fans can record and upload their New Year's resolutions to share with friends and family as part of NHL Network's #MyGoalNHL campaign. Participants will be able to register for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 NHL Awards in Las Vegas and also pick up a 2013-14 NHL Network calendar, great for keeping up with all of the key events and programming in the upcoming months.

· At the Panini America booth, fans will receive a free NHL Sticker Album and NHL Winter Classic sticker sheet plus a free pack of NHL trading cards (while supplies last).

· At Reebok-CCM's interactive space, fans can gear up like the pros and try on the newest Reebok-CCM gear. Visitors also can test Reebok-CCM sticks out at the Deflection Zone and experience what it feels like to score in the big game.

· The Scotiabank Warming Zone will provide guests with an escape from the cold. Guests will be treated to complimentary beverages while they warm up and enjoy some of the pre-game television coverage.

· Fans can make their own free hockey card, play a game of Upper Deck Bubble Hockey, try their hand at Lucky Pack and check out hockey collectibles at the Upper Deck booth.

· Hockey players of all skill levels can try their luck at shooting pucks into an old washing machine and dryer – just like the pros – at the Ticketmaster Target Practice Challenge.

· The Toronto Maple Leafs Mobile Fan Zone will provide fans of all ages with a behind-the-scenes look at a replica Maple Leafs dressing room. The Mobile Fan Zone allows fans to live the dream as though they have just been added to the Maple Leafs' roster.

· York Heating and Air Conditioning will help "heat up" Spectator Plaza with the York Hot Shot Challenge. All fans who participate in the shooting challenge will be eligible to win a York Foam Hockey Stick Hat. Fans also can view an exclusive 2014 Bridgestone

NHL Winter Classic exhibit from the Hockey Hall of Fame, learn about new products from York and pick up branded hand warmers to stay warm during the game.

Brena, an alt-pop band from nearby Grand Rapids, Mich., will play during the pre-game celebration at Spectator Plaza beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET.

WHAT: 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic Spectator Plaza, a free outdoor hockey and entertainment fan festival in celebration of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. ET

WHERE: Michigan Stadium, parking lot near Gate 1, Ann Arbor

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.