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Winter Classic will involve some convincing, but it’s not ‘In Jeopardy’

I mentioned this sort of down the line on Monday: University of Michigan athletic director David Brandon spoke to the Free Press’s George Sipple after the Wolverines took part in the Frozen Diamond Faceoff on Saturday.

Brandon shared some understandable concerns with Sipple, saying that he’d be worried about competition for money/eyeballs given that U of M hopes that its football team is playing in a bowl game on New Year’s Day, mentioning that a Winter Classic on that day might not deliver the bang for the buck for Ann Arbor’s businesses or selling points for The U (that’s what students tend to call it) given that the campus will be empty for the Christmas/New Year’s semester break, and noting that Michigan Stadium would have to get a waiver from the State of Michigan to sell liquor at Michigan Stadium.

Reasonable comments, right? Of course not! The Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby penned a column titled, “Maple Leafs-Red Wings Classic in Jeopardy?” on Tuesday evening (thanks to RedWingsFeed for the heads-up), and it delivers the commensurate amount of panic one would assume regarding anything involving the Maple Leafs that is less than 100% certain:

With all the media, the university’s hierarchy would presumably want a presence at the Classic in Ann Arbor, have its staff involved and be able to convey the whole college-sports spirit for the cameras. That would be tough if a road bowl game is going on at the same time.

Another possible snag is securing a liquor license for such a large event. The stadium is among those major NCAA venues that does not sell alcohol inside the gates.

“It’s an issue and it’s not easy,” Brandon said. “It is a university issue and a state law issue. This is not a venue that has a liquor license to operate on a day-in, day-out period like a lot of other sporting venues. We’re still having conversations. It’s a work in progress. We’ll see if we can work it out.”

But a hockey sources insist the planning of a Leaf-Wings game in Ann Arbor is well along and that matters such as the liquor license will be settled.

Comerica Park, home of baseball’s Detroit Tigers, is another site that could stage an outdoor game, though with less than half the crowd of The Big House.

“I can’t say anything other than we would be happy to attend any Winter Classic or host one,” said Tom Anselmi, executive vice-president and COO for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd.

In an e-mail to the Toronto Sun, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said: “I would hope we will be in a position to make an announcement on next year’s Winter Classic at some point in the relatively near future, but we aren’t at that point yet.”

It’s logical to assume that Wings owner Mike Ilitch will need his olive branches given that the Ilitch family, the Wings and even the City of Detroit would much, much rather receive the economic and PR boost that a Winter Classic held downtown would (that’s lots of fans staying downtown and watching extra Wings games at the Joe, eating at the Hockeytown Cafe, Cheli’s, in Greektown, maybe taking in a show at the Fox, etc.), and it’s completely logical to assume that the U has its concerns (and even I will admit that the U’s campus is humming with electricity when classes are underway—it’s an exciting place to be, and that energy and activity permeates everywhere from Main Street to the Meijer in Ypsi, where the liquor aisle is on one of the main drags so as to be honest about what students come there for on Friday nights).

That’s normal, and everything else suggests that the NHL is going to get its way here.

But as we’re going to find out about anything involving the Maple Leafs and the self-declared center of the hockey universe over the next season, there is nothing too small to not induce panic and multiple gigabytes’ worth of bandwidth.

The hockey gods forbid that Brian Burke gets a hangnail or something.

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MsRedWinger's avatar

As a U of M grad, I’d love to see the game at the Big House, but the concerns are legitimate.  I almost think it should be at Comerica Park, just so downtown Detroit would get the business and the publicity.

Posted by MsRedWinger from the State where Tigers roam in the Spring on 01/18/12 at 01:19 AM ET


I also as a grad would love this, and since my wife is canadian and has never been in The Big House, I’d love to go as well.
I will say people are overlooking the fact that most students will be home for a couple days and done of the traffic/parking concerns may not be as bad as expected, unless the winter is as warm as this one.

Posted by teldar on 01/18/12 at 12:06 PM 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.