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The Winter Classic Comes to Detroit

One of the worst kept secrets was finally fully announced today with the reveal of the 2013 Winter Classic. The game will be played on January 1st 2013 and will feature one of the oldest rivalries in hockey: The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.  The game will be played at the University of Michigan stadium, known as the Big House but the whole week will be dedicated to different hockey events around the city. The Big House will represent the largest crowd ever for a hockey game as 115,000 tickets will be available. Keep reading to learn more about this historic announcement.

On December 11th 2010, the Big House was home to the Big Chill, a college outdoor game between Michigan State and Michigan University. Guinness certified that crowd to be 104,073 which is the current record holder for the largest hockey game attendance. The NHL is trying to top that and they have a good chance. On both sides of the border, in Detroit and in Southern Ontario, the Wings and the Leafs rivalry is the biggest thing out there. Many people were disappointed when after the lockout it was revealed they will only play each other once a year. It is hard to image that it won't be sold out and Commissioner Gary Bettman even predicted that "there won't be enough tickets to meet demand". This event will be huge.

To sweeten the deal even more though, it was also announced that Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers will be having a rink built too as part the week long Hockeytown Winter Festival. The games to be played here will include an alumni game between the Wings and the Leafs, the Great Lakes invitational tournament between Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Michigan and Western Michigan. Comerica Park will also host an AHL game between the Grand Rapid Griffins and the Toronto Marlies as well as two OHL games, one between the London Knights and the Plymouth Whalers, the other between the Saginaw Spirit and the Windsor Spitfires. Chris Illitch, CEO and President of his fathers Illitch empire also mentioned that sledge hockey and clebrity hockey will be played there as well as public skating though no further information was announced on those events.

Some other small pieces of information that came out of today's announcement include

  • Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby confirmed they will play in the Alumni game. 
  • Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Dominik Hasek will be invited
  • The NHL will be able to sell ads inside the Big House and will take over the facilities during the game
  • The deal between the NHL and the University is an estimated $3 million
  • Gary Bettman estimates between 150,000 to 200,000 people will be drawn to Detroit during the Hockeytown Winter Festival
  • A logo, ticket prices and the other event dates will be released in the coming months.
  • Red Wings season ticket holders will not get a Winter Classic ticket in their package
  • HBO will likely have another 24/7 leading up to the big game
Though just under 11 months away this event will be drawing buzz for a long time to come. It could really provide a boost to the local economy in both Detroit and in Windsor across the water in Canada. The place known as Hockeytown will be able to show why again when the Leafs and Wings skate at the Big House on January 1st.

Josh Beneteau is a young, aspiring journalist. His website is www.jbenny.com and you can follow him on twitter at @jbenny15.  Thanks for reading.

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