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No surprise: NHL wants Michigan Stadium to host Red Wings Winter Classic in 2013

According to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Arnold, despite the Red Wings’ management’s desire to host a Winter Classic at Comerica Park, if the NHL is to indeed award the event to the Detroit Red Wings, it plans on setting an attendance record at the 110,000+ capacity Michigan Stadium instead, and as such, the league’s working very hard to secure the use of the “Big House” next December and January:

Michigan Stadium is known for being the biggest college football venue in the land, playing to crowds of more than 110,000 every fall. But the 84-year-old stadium, affectionately referred to as The Big House, is also no stranger to outdoor hockey. And that’s got the NHL’s ears perked up. Multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports this week that the NHL is in advanced discussions with the University of Michigan about holding the 2013 Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.

One source, who spoke on a condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the matter, said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon wasn’t initially sold on the idea of the NHL hosting an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. But over a matter of a couple of weeks, the source said “something happened to make it go from looking like it could happen to [a point where] it probably will.”

In a statement issued last week, Brandon said the NHL had approached him about the Winter Classic but that “there are a lot of complex circumstances that need to be ironed out before anything moves forward.” Brandon did not reply to e-mail messages Wednesday.

Athletic department spokesman Dave Ablauf said Wednesday that any confirmation of an agreement at this point would be “premature.” But reached by phone Wednesday by Yahoo! Sports, Ablauf said, “We’re listening.”

According to Sports Business Daily this week, “An NHL exec said that the league will make an announcement on next year’s [Winter Classic] ‘by the Jan. 29 NHL All-Star Game and that next year’s event will ‘break records.’”

The two teams being discussed most for the league’s annual outdoor are the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. One Michigan source said obstacles remaining include what the university’s financial take would be, as well as the issue of obtaining a waiver to sell beer at the event.

Continued, and the biggest bummer Arnold reveals is that the NHL has no intention to host a Great Lakes Invitational or any non-NHL event at the Big House as a lead-up to the much-reported Wings-Leafs game…

And again, I’m very curious as to whether Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s going to be willing to allow his team to “play nice” with an HBO 24/7 treatment.

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Comments

yreland's avatar

That’s a lot of tickets to sell, they better be cheap enough.  Also, visibility at the Big Chill game a couple yeras back was horrible.  We couldn’t see worth a damn from ten rows up in the end zone.  But it is closer to me and I would definitely go anyways.

Posted by yreland from Hockey's black hole South Carolina on 01/12/12 at 08:07 AM ET

redxblack's avatar

I’ll watch from home. The outdoor games look like a good time, but I can’t imagine actually seeing a hockey game from that far away.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 01/12/12 at 11:03 AM ET

Avatar

your memory must not be worth a damn either; the Big Chill was last season

Posted by FRANK on 01/12/12 at 11:27 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

I was about half way up the south end zone for the Big Chill. Visibility wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I’d imagine higher is actually better for these games.

I’d probably go to a winter classic if given the chance and the price is right, but I’d be just as happy watching on TV.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 01/12/12 at 12:42 PM ET

wolverine's avatar

Something tells me it won’t be a matchup against Toronto, although I wish it were.  This has become more of an event for NBC than anything else, and if you think they will accept an opponent with no ratings influence, you’re mistaken.  Watch for Chicago, LA, Dallas, or San Jose.

Posted by wolverine on 01/12/12 at 12:42 PM ET

Avatar

I think any Original Six matchup is going to be a ratings draw, and I think they know as long as the time isn’t changed at the last second again, an approximation of what the ratings are going to be, plus the Leafs/Wings is the easiest way to sell out the Big House.

I, if it isn’t Toronto, I wouldn’t expect Chicago because I doubt that they’re going to want a rematch already, this early in the lifespan of the Winter Classic.  I could possibly see the Sharks or Kings though…or Colorado.

Posted by Garth on 01/12/12 at 01:34 PM ET

Cliff's avatar

I believe that tickets were $12 for The Big Chill.  And the tickets were available to be purchased as part of the Michigan football season ticket package, so for many folks who were already familiar with getting in and out of Ann Arbor and tailgating, this wasn’t a worry.  Plus, with MSU an hour away, their fanbase bought a lot of tickets.

For the NHL, I’m very curious to see how they select the price, the opposing team (and their traveling fanbase), and how many tickets will be sold through the University of Michigan.  Toronto, Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are really the only opponents that can easily drive into town, and they are still mostly looking at a 4-5 hour drive to Ann Arbor.

If they are going to The Big House, you absolutely have to fill it up.  This is more important than nitpicking with NBC over the opposition’s tv market. So I don’t think that the NHL can gouge on the ticket price, as many UM ticket holders wouldn’t want to pay $75 to see an NHL spectacle after paying $12 for a U-M spectacle.

I’m sure the Wings fan base will buy plenty of tickets, but the NHL might just need the Maple Leaf fans from Windsor, London, Sarnia, Kitchener, and Toronto to make the commute.

Posted by Cliff on 01/12/12 at 02:32 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Continued, and the biggest bummer Arnold reveals is that the NHL has no intention to host a Great Lakes Invitational or any non-NHL event at the Big House as a lead-up to the much-reported Wings-Leafs gameā€¦

Thanks, Gary.Ass, you no-fun, Cawk-fondling midget shrew.  A real chance to highlight United States colegiate hockey that would tie in with the terrific Friday Night Ice on NBCSN is blown off.

Posted by SYF from Zata's Epic Viking Beard on 01/12/12 at 04:01 PM ET

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Boston fan here. I think the Wings should be the next Classic host, but I was wondering if Wings fans would rather play the game in the city itself at Comerica Park. After all, it’s next to the Hockeytown Cafe and Cheli’s. Besides, the Big House already hosted The Big Chill last season. By the way, last Saturday, Fenway filled up for a Hockey East doubleheader.

Posted by Chris from Waltham, Mass. on 01/13/12 at 10:31 AM ET

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I just worked the winter classic here in philly, and i dont think there was a bad spot to watch the game.  It was assume working the 3 events that i did.  I just hope that the stadium is ready to convert their store into hockey like we did at the Phillies

Posted by karl schmidt from philadelphia on 01/13/12 at 01:31 PM ET

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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.