The NHL is starting to remember there are a whole bunch of hockey teams that play west of Pittsburgh. First they gave Columbus the 2013 All Star Game, and now the 2013 Winter Classic returns to the Midwest. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman let us in on the world’s worst kept secret today by announcing the Detroit Red Wings will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic. The game will move out of the city limits of Detroit and will be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. The “Big House” can hold about 115,000 fans which I am sure was alluring to the NHL Well, that and who wants to spend a holiday in Detroit?
Detroit will not be ignored or left out of the Winter Classic festivities. Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, will host the Hockeytown Winter Festival beginning in mid December. The alumni game between Wings and Leafs all time greats will be played here. The Grand Rapids Griffins will play the Toronto Marlies in a matchup of the participants AHL affiliates. Comerica Park will also host the Great Lake Invitational featuring college teams from Michigan Tech, Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan. Four OHL teams will also play outdoor games in Detroit with the Windsor Spitfires taking on the Saginaw Spirit and the Plymouth Whalers vs. London Knights. I love this idea! It is a great way to expose and celebrate the different levels of the great sport of hockey.
I also love having a match up of Original 6 teams. The Wings and Leafs get to renew a once great rivalry in the NHL’s biggest event. This is good for sport. The Detroit/Toronto rivalry has lost a lot of luster since the lockout. I hate the fact that these two teams usually only play once a year. I have been screaming for years that the Eastern and Western Conference teams should be each other twice a season, once in each city. It looked like the NHL fixed that problem with their proposed realignment, but the players union has since shot that down.
The announcement of the Wings 2nd time in the Winter Classic brings back some great memories of the 2009 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field. That was a day I will never forget and experience I am grateful I was a part of. I am thinking I might be spending my New Years in Michigan. I have family who live in Michigan and a cousin who married a Wings fan, so the Boysen family could be in full force at the Big House. I would be wearing a Blackhawks jersey and a Leafs winter hat, of course!