Red Wings to host Maple Leafs in 2013 NHL Winter Classic

The 2013 NHL Winter Classic could take the annual NHL event to the next level and become the biggest of them all with an entire week of events set to accompany the iconic event leading up to an Original Six matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand this morning to announce that the Red Wings will host the Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on New Year’s Day for the 2013 NHL Winter Classic. The news was announced at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers in downtown Detroit, where a series of events will also be held on conjunction with the Winter Classic game at The Big House.

“The Red Wings’ tradition of excellence, Detroit’ passion for hockey and the glorious history of the Maple Leafs create a Winter Classic scenario for the ages,” Gary Bettman said. “The meeting of these two Original Six rivals, at this iconic venue, will lift this Winter Classic to incomparable heights. The demand to be there will be so great this event could only be held at the Big House.”

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch was on hand for the announcement, as were several current and former members of the Red Wings organization.

“We are honored to host the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® and bring the Hockeytown Winter Festival to our fans,” said Ilitch. “This is one of the greatest sports towns ever and to be able to host this celebration of the sport of hockey will provide a tremendous positive economic impact to our community. We are proud to show the world why we love Hockeytown!”

Detroit will be just the second Western Conference team to host the Winter Classic. The Chicago Blackhawks previously hosted the Red Wings in 2009. This will be the first appearance for a Canadian team in the Winter Classic, and the first time a Western Conference team will play an Eastern Conference team in the event. However, Original Six teams have been widely represented with all but the Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens having previously played.

Brian Burke, President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, also expressed his excitement for the Leafs to be included in the event.

“The Toronto Maple Leafs and our fans are extremely thrilled to be a part of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” Burke said. “The rich hockey heritage of these two Original Six hockey clubs will make for an extremely memorable event played in front of the NHL’s largest crowd ever. The atmosphere and pageantry will be an outstanding spectacle for our sport.”

The actual Winter Classic matchup between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will serve as a capstone to a week of hockey events that will take place at Comerica Park in Detroit. A rink will be built inside the stadium, stretching from shallow left field to shallow right field, and will host several other events during the course of the week leading up to the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.

Other events at Comerica Park include:

  • All four of the NCAA college hockey games that comprise the Great Lakes Invitational tournament, typically hosted at Joe Louis Arena
  • An AHL regular season game featuring the Toronto Marlies vs the Grand Rapids Griffins
  • Two regular season OHL games on the same day, a junior doubleheader, with tentative plans calling for the Plymouth Whalers to play the London Knights and the Saginaw Spirit to play the Windsor Spitfires.
  • There will also be high school games, youth hockey games, with the showpiece game at Comerica being the Alumni or Legends game featuring Red Wing and Leaf oldtimers/alumni.

The only event to be held at The Big House in Ann Arbor will be the Winter Classic itself. Previously, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University attracted a record-setting crowd of 104,173 when they played outdoors at The Big House in 2010.





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