ANN ARBOR, MICH. - White wispy snowflakes began floating down on Michigan Stadium in mid-afternoon on Monday, briefly turning the Big House into a Winter Wonderland-type setting.
It was the beginning of what the NHL and NBC hope is the perfect storm — even if there is a Canadian team taking part in the network’s hockey jewel known as the Winter Classic.
What did it take to convince the American broadcasting superpower to accept a team from the Great White North participating in what is usually a lovefest for U.S. squads?
As NHL chief operating officer John Collins sat in the stands of the Big House on Monday glancing around the spruced-up facility, the answer rested in the 107,000 empty seats that will be shoehorned with Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings fans come Wednesday afternoon.
“There are a number of factors,” Collins said. “But to bring in 40,000 people from Ontario into a place like the Big House for a spectacle like this was an easy selling point."