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Winter Classic rhetoric: Does the NHL owe the Red Wings, Detroit a ‘Winterfest’ at Comerica Park?

I would prefer to steer you back to the game update thread to read about Nicklas Lidstrom’s take on being followed around by the NHL 36 crew’s cameras, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ trading away of fan favorite Greg Amadio, news about a Rliey Sheahan suspension and all of the rest of the Red Wings-related news related to tonight’s game between Detroit and Phoenix, but we’ve got some dueling banjos of significant editorial weight offering very contrary takes on the Red Wings-hosted Winter Classic.

The Detroit News’s Gregg Krupa believes that the NHL needs to help Detroit become the focal point of the festivities despite the main event being held in Ann Arbor, suggesting that it should coordinate between local business entities to build a secondary showplace of epic proportions at Comerica Park as a major olive branch to the “cash cow” that is the Western Conference-based Detroit Red Wings, as well the City of Detroit, for holding the Winter Classic 45 miles away from Comerica Park:

[University of Michigan athletic director David] Brandon gets his part of the deal done, with all appropriate resources from the NHL making it worthwhile for the University of Michigan and its athletics department, and perhaps even the city of Ann Arbor, given the fact that, currently, no alcohol is sold in Michigan Stadium.

And the Ilitches and [Olympia Entertainment executive Tom] Wilson, with a significant boost from the NHL and perhaps another local NHL owner, Peter Karmanos, along with Roger Penske, Dan Gilbert and the rebounding auto companies, would finance both a rink and a grand winter festival in Comerica Park for several weeks from just before Christmas through the North American International Auto Show.

The outdoor rink would be the site of the 2012 Great Lakes Invitational. Michigan and Michigan State could play a few additional collegiate games, there. It also would provide the setting for the NHL old-timers game that is part of the Winter Classic weekend.

And that would not be just any old-timers game. It would be an old-timers game that the NBC Sports Network and the CBC could market for weeks. If the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs are to be the contestants, which seems nearly certain, the rosters would include a long list of members of the Hockey Hall of Fame who, even if too old to play, could provide great cameo appearances for a game broadcast throughout North America.

Does he continue? To the point that he suggests that the rink built at Comerica Park should be used to host a Grand Rapids Griffins game, a Plymouth Whalers and/or Windsor Spitfires game, and…

Arrayed around the rink in Comerica Park could be a “winter festival,” featuring manufactured hills for multiple sled runs, maybe even a cross-country skiing track, warming stations and some areas for the children of this city to make snowmen. Admission would be charged, and it would be on the scale of similar activities downtown during the 2006 Super Bowl.

The Cleveland Indians have staged a similar event, “Snow Days,” in Progressive Field for two years in a row now. The first was a financial loss. But Indians president Mark Shapiro said the franchise planned for better financial results this year. What are the odds, in Detroit?

Continued with quite a bit of rhetoric; the Heritage Newspapers’ Terry Jacoby on the other hand, believes that this event should be alla bout Ann Arbor, and nothing else:

[T]he news sends a cold chill up my spine. Seeing the winged wheel rolling around Michigan Stadium is going to send local hockey fans skating down I-94 in the thousands — a hundred thousand PLUS. It’s a can’t miss moment in Detroit sports. And thank someone — Mike Ilitch, Gary Bettman, Dave Brandon — for having the common sense to hold this in Ann Arbor and not East Lansing or Comerica Park. Sorry, but this had to be at Michigan Stadium. Anywhere else and the thing melts in your hands.

Michigan and Michigan State attracted a Guinness World Record 104,173 people for a hockey game on Dec. 11, 2010. With all due respect to the exciting college game, step aside and let the professionals show you how it’s done.

And the Winter Classic has been done to perfection. It just keeps getting better and better. From the opening one in Buffalo — snow flakes falling, Sidney Crosby’s shootout game winner — to Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and this month’s one in Philadelphia between the Flyers and Rangers, the NHL has a showcase almost the equal of the Stanley Cup finals.
One of the great features of this game is HBO’s 24/7 weekly show leading up to the big game. It was captivating last month watching the Flyers and Rangers on their collision course for the outdoor showdown in Philadelphia. Watching our hometown Wings behind the scenes will provide an even greater thrill. It also will be the first game featuring a Canadian team for those who care.

Another huge benefit will be the “other” events that come with this. How about U-M vs. Michigan State on Christmas Eve and a full schedule of high school games giving youngsters a memory to last a lifetime. This probably won’t happen again in our lifetime. So get excited. This will be special.

What do you think? Should the NHL focus its energies on its collegiate stage, or does it bear some sort of responsibility to coordinate competing business entities’ agendas to benefit the City of Detroit and Michigan and Southwestern Ontario’s teams which operate like businesses? Or both?

We’ve got a year of this kind of talk to come, so we’d better get used to it.

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SYF's avatar

If NBCSN continues with the Friday Night Ice program for next year (dear Sweet, Babbling, Drooling Baby Jesus, I hope so), well, there’s what they need to televise a collegiate hockey game.  I mean, using FNI to televise the GLI to tie in with the rest of the Winter Classic weekend.  It would be an unprecedented level of exposure for US college hockey.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 01/20/12 at 03:12 AM ET


Of course, there should be one in Detroit.  Bring in the Maple Leafs and break the NHL outdoor classic record!!

Posted by Dirk from Milwaukee, WI on 01/20/12 at 04:56 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.