There might be some trouble at the Big House for a proposed Maple Leafs-Red Wings Winter Classic.
University of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon told the Detroit News earlier this week that an outdoor game at the school’s football stadium held before as many as 100,000 people could encounter scheduling conflicts and other hiccups.
“When we were approached (by the NHL), I thought this could be a great opportunity. But boy, doesn’t it have a lot of complications, and I still feel that way,” Brandon told the paper.
“They play it on Jan. 1. It’s a holiday, a long time after the stadium’s closed up. And, everybody is out of town, and I hope, in fact, a lot are at a bowl game watching our football team.”
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.”