Winter Classic heads to Big House
|Pavel Datsyuk (left) and Nicklas Lidstrom stand on the field at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012. (REUTERS/Rebecca Cook)
DETROIT - The Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will play in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Thursday at Comerica Park in Detroit, which will be the host city for the annual event. The home of the Detroit Tigers will also serve as the host for the Hockeytown Winter Festival, a week-long celebration that will lead up to the Jan. 1, 2013 contest.
Michigan Stadium, better known as the Big House, is home to the University of Michigan's football team and is the largest stadium in North America with a seating capacity of about 110,000.
"Since this outdoor matchup is so big, there is only one place it could be played," Bettman said during Thursday's press conference. "Even with 115,000 or more tickets available, we still won't have enough to satisfy the demand."
It will be the sixth Winter Classic, the outdoor series which debuted in 2008 when Pittsburgh defeated Buffalo in a shootout in the snow before an NHL-record 71,217 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.
The 2013 matchup will undoubtedly break that mark. Michigan Stadium hosted an outdoor hockey game on December 11, 2010 when 104,173 fans attended a college hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State.
Detroit played in the second edition of the Winter Classic in 2009, notching a 6-4 win over the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in Chicago. The other Winter Classic games were held at Boston's Fenway Park in 2010, Pittsburgh's Heinz Field in 2011 and Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park this past January.
Each of those games featured only teams based in the United States. The Maple Leafs will be the first team from Canada to play in a Winter Classic.
"This is going to be a fun, fun event and we can't wait to get started," said Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
There have been two Canadian outdoor games -- the first in 2003 when Montreal played at Edmonton and last February when the Canadiens visited Calgary.
In addition to the game itself, the Hockeytown Winter Festival will include an ice rink at Comerica Park that will feature games for every level of hockey -- high school, college, junior and minor pro. The rink at Comerica will also be open for public skating.
"We're committed to making this the best Winter Classic ever," said Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch. "I can promise you, there will be something for everyone."