Leafs are first Canadian team to play in Winter Classic

The Toronto Maple Leafs logo on display at the Big House at Ann Arbor, Michigan, Monday December...

The Toronto Maple Leafs logo on display at the Big House at Ann Arbor, Michigan, Monday December 30, 2013. Jack Boland/QMI Agency

Mike Zeisberger, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:15 PM ET

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."


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