Blog Entry

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Posted on: January 13, 2012 2:59 pm

By Brian Stubits

It doesn't sound like it's going to take the NHL until September to finalize the details for next year's Winter Classic.

The little steam engine that was rumbling about next year's game being played at the University of Michigan's football stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs has morphed into a full-on freight train. Gary Bettman joked at the news conference to announce this past Winter Classic game that it was the worst-kept secret in the NHL. Well, this one might take the cake already.

The conjecture was swirling around the Citizen's Bank Park press box that the Red Wings would be hosting, very possibly against the Leafs. The question was where? More and more the evidence started to point toward Michigan Stadium, a.k.a. the Big House, being the site.

It has come to the point of inevitability now. Jeff Arnold of Yahoo Sports was first to report that the NHL was in advanced talks with the University of Michigan for the game to be played there. Then TSN's insider Bob McKenzie extraordinaire echoed the same thing Thursday night on TSN.

"I can in fact confirm those reports that the NHL's desire is that the Leafs play the Wings at the Big House. It'll be configured for 115k. It's not finalized yet, but by the end of the month there's expected to be a formal announcement. The NHL is well down the road."

Just in case that wasn't convincing enough, Scott Burnside at also confirmed the advanced negotiations with a little extra information thrown in.

The Jan. 1 game between the Original Six rivals would be played at the University of Michigan's "Big House," which, at 110,000-plus seats, is the largest college football stadium in the country. Ann Arbor is about 43 miles west of Detroit.

But cognizant of the need to include the City of Detroit in the process, the league would like to build a second outdoor rink in downtown Detroit, probably at Comerica Park, the home of Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers.

That's an interesting twist and a good idea, I think. It puts some action much closer to the heart of the fan base back in Detroit and it helps deal with the issue of Wings owner Mike Illitch wanting the game in a place he owns, Comerica Park.

The reports all go on to indicate that the NHL could have it wrapped up and possibly announced by the All-Star Game later this month.

This would be a groundbreaker for multiple reasons. The first is that it would absolutely smash the NHL record for largest attendance at a game. The Big House can hold more than 110,000 for Wolverine football games and would figure to host the same for a Winter Classic game. It would be a spectacle to behold, even if it's been done before. I don't think too many people actually saw Michigan and Michigan State play at the Big House, so it would still be unique.

The other obvious groundbreaker here is the introduction of a Canadian team to an event that has been a showcase event for NBC Sports, an American network. The idea has been to pit two American teams to help draw attention in the States. Some fear that a Canadian team won't draw as much interest.

I call hogwash. We have been able to see so far that all the Winter Classic games are going to draw big audiences. It doesn't much matter who has played, the ratings have all been pretty close in scope. It's the NHL's biggest regular-season game, hockey fans will watch.

Then you throw in the teams involved? We have already seen the Red Wings in the game once and it drew the best ratings so far. You don't need me to tell you the Red Wings have a big national following. The concern, though, is about the Leafs. Steve Lepore at Puck the Media, who watches ratings and media coverage closely, isn't optimistic.

I just don't see it, though. The Leafs are a well-known franchise, obviously. There are a ton of Leafs fans in the States, too. Just go to any of their road games to see how true that is. And no, they aren't all people who flew in just to watch the game (although some are, for sure). I don't see it being an issue for American ratings and it would help appease the Canadian fans who have felt a bit left out.

What would HBO think for its 24/7 series? Well there I don't know, but there's no guarantee it will even be back next season regardless.

But we can feel pretty safe in saying we do know the Winter Classic will almost assuredly be in Ann Arbor, Mich. next New Year's Day. And it's worth noting that Michigan Stadium now has lights, something that was new just this year. Remember that if the weather doesn't cooperate again (although that's doubtful in Michigan).

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: January 13, 2012 7:50 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

If you don't like our sport don't read the blogs.

Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: January 13, 2012 7:48 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

This makes no sense what so ever. Yes I'm being a homer on this one. It should be the Boston Bruins at Detriot. Why? Well most of the teams that have participated in the Winter Classic have been in it twice. The Bruins won the Cup and are a force this year and hopefully years to come. Bruins and Detriot are Original Six teams. They are both beasts in their Conference. I can keep going but I'm happy the Winter Classic is drawing new fans for the game of Hockey. If it is Toronto at Detriot congratulations. Please for the love of the game no more fans fighting it's becoming a problem.

Since: May 18, 2009
Posted on: January 13, 2012 6:19 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Well atleast we know Nick Lidstrom will be back for another season after this one is complete. As if he would miss the largest game ever played in the NHL.

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: January 13, 2012 6:05 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

They'll try any bush league gimmick to market this sport anymore.  Supposedly the cast of the Jersey Shore will be singing the National Anthem, keepin' it classy NHL!

Since: Aug 15, 2006
Posted on: January 13, 2012 5:36 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Actually, Michigan Stadium is the fourth largest in the world. And would be a great place to have a Winter Classic!! 


Since: Nov 10, 2011
Posted on: January 13, 2012 5:12 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

oosterbann:  Awfully sensitive aren't you???  First, that quote was from Scott Burnside, not CBS so they can't just misquote someone's article to feed your ego.  Second, is UM's stadium the largest college football stadium in the US???  The answer is YES!!! 

Just b/c the article didn't go on and tout it as the greatest stadium on planet earth doesn't mean they "need to get their facts straight" since everything they stated was factually accurate!!

Since: Sep 28, 2007
Posted on: January 13, 2012 5:03 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Michigan stadium is largest stadium in the USA and third largest in the world, not just largest college football stadium, get your facts straight cbssports!

Since: Nov 10, 2011
Posted on: January 13, 2012 4:48 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

For all you idiots crying about a potential conflict with the Rose Bowl, screw your head on tighter!!

!)  Michigan is a decent team but the odds of them winning the Big 10 are fairly mediocre at best
2) The Rose Bowl doesn't start till 5ish and the WC is likely to be played around 1 PM
3) The NHL doesn't care (nor should it) about the Bowl Games since they are meaningless anyway...if UM fans want to pass on the WC b/c they hope to watch a bowl game, then so be it!!

Since: Jul 19, 2009
Posted on: January 13, 2012 3:52 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

The Ford Field roof cannot be opened.

Since: Jan 29, 2007
Posted on: January 13, 2012 3:49 pm

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

LOL... What!?  The Rose Bowl isn't played in the Big House.  I thought all of the New Year's Day games were played there!?  : ) 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or