Home > Commentary > The 2013 Winter Classic has been announced!

The 2013 Winter Classic has been announced!

Ken Baker




NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday morning that the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, will be played on January 1, 2013 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium, nicknamed “The Big House” is the third largest stadium in the world and has the the highest seating capacity in North America. Orginally built in 1927 with a capacity of 72,000, recent rennovations has made the official seating capacity at 109,901. The matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toroanto Maple Leafs (two of the “Original Six” teams) is expected to garner a lot of interest and attract a huge number of spectators.

“These two Original Six rivals will take the Winter Classic to a new record-setting level,” Bettman said in announcing the game. “Since this game is going to be so big, it could only be played in one place,” Bettman said. “Even with 115,000 tickets available, we won’t have enough tickets to meet demand.” The 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic marks the first time a Canadian-based franchise is part of the festivities. This Winter Classic also marks the first time that the events of Winter Classic week will be split between two venues — Comerica Park and Michigan Stadium. Bettman made the announcement at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, which will host the Hockeytown Winter Festival, a week-long celebration of the game at all levels.

 “It’s Hockeytown against the center of the hockey universe,” Leafs GM Brian Burke said during a roundtable discussion with Red Wings GM Ken Holland after the announcement. “We’re real excited; two passionate fan bases. I promise you, there will be a lot of (Maple Leaf) blue in the Big House.”


“The NHL and the Big House, it doesn’t get any better than that,” said Chris Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., the Red Wings’ parent company — the Hockeytown Winter Festival is a huge component of the 2013 Winter Classic experience, as well. “The solution we came to was let’s do a Winter Festival, let’s do everything downtown and we’ll take the game out to Ann Arbor because with 115,000 people and a historic venue and with two historic teams, we thought we couldn’t get much of a bigger stage than that.” “We’re really excited for the fans of Detroit,” Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said. “This community deserves a big event like this. We’re committed to making this the biggest NHL Winter Classic ever.”

In addition to the Alumni Showdown, an impressive lineup of other games will be played at Comerica Park during the Hockeytown Winter Festival. One headline event will be the Great Lakes Invitational, which will take collegiate teams Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan outdoors for the popular and long-standing tournament that is a tradition in Detroit. There will also be American League hockey between the Grand Rapid Griffins and Toronto Marlies, two Ontario Hockey League games involving the four area teams, high school and youth hockey games played at Comerica, as well as public-skating sessions. The events, which will run for the final two weeks of December, are expected to bring more than 250,000 fans to the downtown area. “I promise you, there will be something for everybody,” Mike Ilitch said.

As usual, the Winter Classic will be Jan. 1, with a backup date of Jan. 2. The game will be televised by NBC, CBC and RDS.

The opportunity to play the Winter Classic game at Michigan Stadium and go for a Guinness World Record crowd proved to be a successful pairing.

The current record occurred at the Big House on Dec. 11, 2010 when a crowd of 104,173 showed up to see Michigan beat Michigan State, 5-0, in a game known as the “Big Chill.”

The record for a NHL game was set in the inaugural Winter Classic when 71,217 fans filled Ralph Wilson Stadium for the 2008 Amp Energy NHL Winter Classic, in which Pittsburgh defeated the host Sabres in the shootout. Boston’s Fenway Park (2010), Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field (2011) and Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, this past January, have been the other hosts of Winter Classic games.

None of those hosts, however, have come close to the capacity provided by the Big House.

It’s anticipated even more people could show up for the matchup between the Leafs and Wings, two fierce Original Six rivals separated by a drive of less than five hours.

These teams have been facing off against each other since 1926 and their rivalry is among the most even in the history of the game. The teams have met 643 times in the regular season and Detroit has taken 646 of the 1,291 points awarded by going 275-273-93-3 against the Leafs.

The teams have also met 23 times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with Toronto taking 12 of the series. The rivals have contested the Stanley Cup Final on seven different occasions. Detroit won the first meeting in 1936, but Toronto has won the past six, including the most recent in 1964.

The franchises last met in the playoffs in the 1993 Norris Division Semifinals. Toronto won the series, 4-3, after Nikolai Borschevsky scored at 2:35 of overtime in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.

My goal this year, not only as a fan but as a hockey writer is to attend this game. I put this on my to-do list right after this years Winter Classic and have made it a goal (ha ha! he shoots he scores!!) of mine to be there in Detroit next year. I want to go and soak in all the Winter Classic has to offer. I would love to be able to report live on this game and blog about my experiences. I just hope I can get tickets!!!

Categories: Commentary
  1. February 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Hope you get to go!

  2. Justin
    February 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

    Thanks Robyn! I’m going to do my best. I want to drag my aunt along with me. Plus I have family in Michigan. So, this might be really fun!!!!

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