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Talking about the Red Wings-Maple Leafs Winter Classic announcement to come

Despite the Red Wings and NHL’s insistence that an announcement to be made at Comerica Park at 10:30 AM this morning—which NHL.com and the Wings will happen to stream online—and a parallel announcement to be made at Michigan Stadium at 1:15 may or may not have to do anything with slate of outdoor games to be played at Comerica Park and Michigan Stadium, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents approved a $3 million rental (not including some sort of donation to the U’s scholarship fund) of the Big House by the NHL on Wednesday, and we all know that the NHL is going to confirm that the Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 Winter Classic when this mysterious “major announcement” is made.

The Detroit News’s Joanne C. Gerstner gets down to brass tacks regarding the event’s details as conveniently discussed by University of Michigan athletic director David Brandon (and I’ve added some known details in parentheses)...

It is expected that an outdoor rink will be built at Comerica Park, and games and events would take place there leading up to the Jan. 1 Wings game. The only event at Michigan Stadium would be the Wings game; Brandon said the game would begin at noon.

A source told The Detroit News that the Comerica Park schedule would include:

Thursday, Dec. 27: AHL game [between the Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins]

Friday and Saturday, Dec. 28-29: Great Lakes Invitational games [between the University of Michigan, Michigan Technological University, Michigan State University and Western Michigan University]

Sunday, Dec. 30: OHL game[s between the Windsor Spitfires and Saginaw Spirit, and the Plymouth Whalers and London Knights]

Monday, Dec. 31: Wings-Maple Leafs alumni game

The GLI takes place each December at Joe Louis Arena. The 2013 participants are Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan. The semifinals would be on Dec. 28, with the championship and consolation games on Dec. 29.

“If the whole GLI is played outdoors, that would be an interesting concept because fans would get to see a tournament — two games each day outdoors,” Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said, adding that he has been following rumors about the event in recent weeks but had received no official notification that the GLI would be at Comerica Park.

...
Brandon said negotiations with the NHL have been more complicated than he could have imagined simply because U-M is coordinating with another entity. But Brandon has always been forthright about his desire to use the stadium for more than football games to generate revenue for the university.

“On Jan. 1, 2013, the campus is fundamentally closed down, school is out,” Brandon said. “I personally hope to be at a really terrific bowl game. It’s going to be an exciting opportunity for us to host a huge event. I know the NHL is hell-bent to break the record we set at the Big Chill, and I hope they do, because then we’re going to come back and have another hockey game and break their record.”

Even Berenson was somewhat unwilling to talk in specifics to AnnArbor.com’s Pete Cunningham about the event, but he’s excited about the event, and Cunningham notes that the U will be able to sell alcohol at the Winter Classic itself...

Brandon said the university will utilize one of its 12 special one-day liquor licenses to have a temporary license for the game.

“The fact that there will be liquor served is no problem whatsoever,” said regent S. Martin Taylor. “This in a non-university event. We are truly just leasing the facilities.”

Brandon said the city sees roughly $14 million in spinoff revenue on a typical football Saturdays, but expects more to be generated by the event.

“This I actually would suggest would be greater,” Brandon said, adding that a national event will bring more outsiders into Ann Arbor and that a noon start would likely force them to stay the night.

He, however, made it clear that ticket sales and any revenue from the event itself will go to the NHL.

“This is purely an NHL event,” Brandon said. “All of my friends who are out there wanting to hit me up for tickets…. I don’t have any.”

The university will be responsible for providing and managing its usual football Saturday support services. Brandon also noted that the NHL has agreed to donate an undisclosed amount to the university for student scholarships.

The Free Press’s George Sipple also reports that the NHL will be allowed to post advertisements on the boards, and that Brandon is certain that the league will set a new attendance record—depending on who you believe, the league could try to squeeze anywhere form 110,000 to 115,000 into the rink—and Brandon suggested that there are more than $3 million reasons to hold an event which might compete with a bowl game and will take place while the University of Michigan can’t really advertise its campus because it will be empty for Winter Break:

“The Winter Classic’s gonna get played, whether it’s here or someplace else,” he said. “And it has for the last several years and we’ve never felt an impact. A lot of people, their routine is to watch the Winter Classic ... and then shift over to watch the bowl games later in the afternoon.”

For marketing and seating purposes, Michigan Stadium will be turned over to the NHL. Brandon said U-M would provide a game operations crew and assist in NHL in working with police. Brandon said parking was part of the lease agreement and U-M’s lots would be made available. But Brandon said the golf course, used for parking and tailgating for football games, will not be available at that time.

“In a time of year,” Brandon said, “when the university is pretty much closed down, we won’t have students on campus. We feel the parking issue will probably be less cumbersome than it is during the fall in football season.”

Sipple confirms the participants in the outdoor games at Comerica Park, and adds the following:

A Wings alumni team will play a Leafs alumni team, too. Chris Osgood, who retired after last season, confirmed to the Free Press that he would play in the game. Dominik Hasek and Mike Vernon—also Stanley Cup-winning netminders for the Winged Wheel—are expected to take turns in goal, too. ...

Why yes, the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey, the Wings and Leafs will ensure that nobody has to buy sticks like the Flyers and Rangers’ alums had to if they didn’t bring their own, and yes, they’ll take care of their alumni bretheren, which Maple Leafs Alumni president Mark Osborne confirmed to the Toronto Sun’s Tery Koshan...

“Think of the roster we’d have at our disposal,” past president Mark Osborne said. “Start with the no-brainers such as Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark. But we’d want to do it right like the Flyers just did in their game. We’d want some recognizable names from the 1970s, such as Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams. There are different generations and you want to have a good game for people to watch. It’s a fine line. I know Darryl (now aged 61) might have trouble with his knee and might not want to chase Steve Yzerman up the ice.”

Osborne is waiting to hear how any profits might be divided between the league and the oldtimers.

“I’m also a Ranger alumnus and they do a good job and I’m sure our Leaf guys will be looked after by the club.”

And we’ll take a particularly ugly left turn because Koshan points out that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Richard Peddie plans on ensuring that a large contingent of Maple Leaf fans earn first rights to the tickets the NHL doles out…

“I said absolutely, but wanted to run it by Brian Burke to make sure the team was cool with it,” Peddie said Wednesday. “Of course Brian was. I just asked that the league make sure our Leaf season seat holders and our wait-list get a first crack at tickets.”

The details will come out Thursday in two press conferences to be held at the 110,000-seat Big House at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and Comerica Park in nearby Detroit, where the alumni game will be held. While Original Six rivals such as the Rangers, Bruins, Blackhawks and Canadiens have been part of outdoor games already and Calgary and Edmonton have hosted in Canada, the Leafs have been watching with envy. There was no suitable venue in the GTA, but the Wings had the Big House in their sights, where an announced crowd of 113,411 (104,173 certified) watched The Big Chill in December between Michigan and Michigan State. The latter figure is the one the NHL wants to beat and inviting ‘Canada’s team’ should do it.

“The Big House is going to be a massive sea of blue,” predicted Peddie, who is a Windsor, Ont., native and expects fans from both teams will pack the stands.

97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone points out that not only will tickets to the event be incredibly difficult for people who are not Red Wings or Maple Leafs season ticket-holders to obtain, but the NHL also forced fans in Philadelphia who actually received the opportunity to purchase tickets to buy very expensive tickets to the Flyers-Rangers alumni game, and it’s entirely possible that purchasing GLI, OHL and AHL tickets will be part of the bargain:

With the prospect of more than five other games besides the NHL game, I would not be surprised if you had to buy tickets to at least one or two other games to go see the Wings and Leafs. Hopefully this will not be the case, but my advice is to be prepared to spend big money on some games that you have no desire to see.

And if you read the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran’s report, or that of most of the Canadian media outlets, and you happen to be a Wings fan, you’ll have to get used to something that’s going to become downright normal over the next 12 months:

On the other side of the border, the media may in fact treat this as the Toronto Maple Leafs finally receiving their day in the international spotlight in the Winter Classic, to be played against some team at the University of Extreme Southwestern Ontario (hey, they get the CBC there and Ann Arbor’s a liberal town, so it’s like a little slice of Canada, right?). The disconnect between the host and the guest will be downright bizarre to come to grips with from Wings fans’ perspectives, and all I can say as one myself is that that’s the Toronto media for you.

They live in the center of the universe and have the luxury of watching the best hockey team on the planet, and we only live in their world. That’s how it works in Hogtown.

I’m going to be interested in your feedback as to the level of Leaf Winter Classic coverage you’d like on this Red Wings blog, because it’s going to be an almost every-day topic over the next year. I don’t feel that I need to necessarily do more than keep an eye on things and inform you of anything that’s actually pertinent to the event as opposed to random observations or salivating over the potential exposure for Leaf Nation, etc. etc.

Anyway, USA Today’s Kevin Allen explains why the NHL is choosing to reinvigorate a half-decade-old event by going for an attendance/ratings/money record via international interest:

The Winter Classic has been a hit everywhere it has been, but next year’s event could be the highest-profile game in terms of national attention. In an effort to serve both the league’s best interest and Detroit’s needs, NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins and the Red Wings have agreed to put the game in Michigan Stadium to allow for the record chase. But all of the other events, including the alumni game between two Original Six teams, will be played downtown at Comerica Park.

The game should receive more attention nationally because even non-hockey fans will tune in to see whether Michigan Stadium will be filled up.

The game should receive more attention internationally because a Canadian team is involved. Although Canadian networks televise the Winter Classic, it previously has been viewed as a made-for-American-television event. By adding the Maple Leafs to the mix, the game should command more attention in Canada. The Maple Leafs have an extensive following on both sides of the border.

If you wondering why NBC was willing to buy into having a Canadian team, consider that the Bruins-Vancouver Canucks Stanley Cup Final did well for the network last spring.

Finally, the game should receive more attention locally because the events at Comerica Park will include an American Hokey League game and games from the famed Great Lakes Invitational college tournament that is usually played at Joe Louis Arena.

The split schedule between Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich., was a compromise designed to pay homage to Red Wings/Tigers owners Mike and Marian Ilitch’s commitment to the city of Detroit. This event could show that compromise can sometimes be a recipe for greatness instead of a synonym of mediocrity.

I don’t want to get into this too deeply, but the Globe and Mail’s Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette over a potential HBO 24/7 series featuring the bombastic Brian Burke and a Maple Leafs team and coaching staff that seems incredibly enthusiastic about accommodating an “embedded” camera crew…

But the Red Wings, well…If the NHL waffles on 24/7, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Wings decline participating. They’re not just what Henrik Zetterberg calls a “boring” team—their PR department is understandably very protective of their players, Wings coach Mike Babcock isn’t keen on having his coaching strategies dissected by observers (as he told Fox Sports Detroit a few weeks ago), and the Edmonton Sun’s Derek Van Diest took note of the theoretical treatment the Wings might undergo…

Nicklas Lidstrom got a taste of what it was like to have a camera crew follow him around as he was the subject of a behind-the-scenes documentary. The entire Red Wings will be going through a similar process next year as they will be playing the Toronto Maple Leafs in the next year’s installment of the Winter Classic. HBO will once again be following both teams leading up to the event.

“I think it’s great that they’re doing it,” Lidstrom said. “I think it’s great for the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan that they’re having a huge outdoor game like that.”

While the majority of the Red Wings were able avoid the camera during the filming of Lidstrom’s profile on the NHL Network show, NHL 36, they won’t have that luxury when crews follow them around next year.

“When they were following me, guys were shying away from getting close to me,” Lidstrom said. “When I was in the back stretching, we usually have five or six guys back there with me, and there was no one in there.”

And Babcock himself offered some wisely-spoken comments about the incredibly carefully-edited NHL 36 broadcast to the Free Press’s Helene St. James…

The Wings just went through something similar last month when NBC crews followed captain Nicklas Lidstrom for a day-and-half for an episode of “NHL 36.” About the only teammate who was in more than one shot was Holmstrom, prompting coach Mike Babcock’s response Wednesday when asked if the Wings would be comfortable being shadowed.

“Ask Nick how many guys ate lunch with him,” Babcock said. “You saw Nick, you never saw anyone else. I wonder why.”

Cleary is renowned as the team’s biggest talker—one teammate claimed Cleary, in fact, is never actually quiet—but hockey players in general tend to avoid drawing attention to themselves. It isn’t just the players, though, who will be captured. Bruce Boudreau, then coach of the Washington Capitals, gained headlines for his colorful cursing leading up to the 2011 game. The Wings, of course, will deal with the cameras as part of the price to host something as fun as an outdoors game in front more than 100,000 people against an Original Six rival.

“It’s great for the state of Michigan that they’re doing it,” Lidstrom said. “Toronto is not too far, people can drive in, so I think it will be a great match with a lot of Red Wings fans and a lot of Toronto fans, too.”

Johan Franzen, who hasn’t been to Michigan Stadium, is hoping the weather will come through with the same overcast skies that helped make the ‘09 game a success between the Wings and Blackhawks at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

“If it’s snowing and all that, then ... you’ve just got to try to find the puck,” he said. “Probably going to be a low-scoring game and not that fun to watch. But if the weather is nice, then it’s going to be a great day.”

The Wings also shared some observations regarding the theoretically hypothetical event with MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa and Ted Kulfan, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness and the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:

“If it’s going to happen it’ll be very exciting,” Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. “They haven’t announced anything yet, but if it happens it’ll be something exciting for the fans. And to have something in this area of this magnitude will be great for the fans. I think it’s great for the fans, great for Detroit and great for the state of Michigan that they’re doing it. It’s Original Six, Toronto’s not too far, and people can drive in. It’s close to Canada. It will be a great atmosphere. There are a lot of Red Wings fans, and a lot of Toronto fans, so if it happens, it’ll be great.”

Might it be enough to convince Lidstrom to play another season?

“I don’t know if this one game will sway me to come back or not,” he said.

Detroit coach Mike Babcock also sought to temper his excitement.

“I think it will be fantastic,” Babcock said. “If we are offered the opportunity to have an outdoor game, we’d embrace it.”

Wings goalie Jimmy Howard wasn’t the least bit concerned about keeping the secret.

“It’s going to be quite the spectacle, being at the Big House, with 110,000 expected to be there,” Howard said. “It’ll be great for all of us.”

And the most interesting comment comes from the London Free Press’s Morris Dalla Costa, who confirms that the London Knights will be taking part in the festivities, and that both NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr (quick! Get the blow gun with the tranquillizers! Let’s stuff them in the well-used bathroom at Good Time Charley’s and force them to stay there till they hammer out a new CBA that ensures there’s hockey to be played next season to begin with!) will be in attendance today:

Red Wings forward Cory Emmerton, a St. Thomas native, holds no doubt such an encounter would be interesting.

“I grew up not an avid Leafs fan, but I did root for Toronto,” he said. “My dad cheered for the Wings, so we were on opposite sides of it. Back home, half of the people are Leafs fans and the other half cheer for the Wings. It’s always a lot of fun.”

It’ll be split, no doubt.

Maybe the Free Press’s sports staff cut to the other chase—via some Winter Classic questions:

• What jerseys will the Wings and Leafs wear? They always have throwback unis for the Winter Classic, like those big D jerseys the Wings wore at Wrigley Field.

• What beer will they serve, Labatt Blue? Does the Big House have adequate men’s restroom facilities for that kind of crowd?

• And will the concession stands accept Canadian currency?

• Which Wing will cuss the most on HBO’s “24/7”? (If they do it.)

• What’s the forecast for that day? It was in the 40s this year.
...
• Will Steve Yzerman play in the alumni game? Let’s hope so. But if he does, it will be his first.

I don’t think that Yzerman’s skated since he retired, so I’m not sure about that…

But I would assume that the Wings might trot out new jerseys for the event, if not predominantly red versions of the one they wore in 2009 (I hope), and the Leafs are always adding new throwbacks to the mix.

I’m going to do my best to cover the pressers today, but we’ll see how things go in the afternoon. I’m sure that there will be radio and TV appearances galore, but as I’m going to be running on 3 hours of sleep, I’d ask that you kindly excuse me from day-long coverage.

 

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Comments

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Its going to be the greatest classic yet. The only thing better would be a Wings and Leafs final. Nothing could top that final. A MAN CAN DREAM RIGHT. But know this will be epic. So happy the NHL did something right. And did not do some shit like a Blue jackets vs coyotes. All us wings fans know the words to O Canada and can’t wait to sing along with you.

Posted by Bob from FLINT MICHIGAN on 03/03/12 at 01:32 AM ET

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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.