Tag:Big House
Posted on: February 9, 2012 11:30 am
 

Ranking the Winter Classic venues

By Brian Stubits

The next edition of the Winter Classic will be held at one of college football's most iconic sites, the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's the first time the Classic will be held on a college campus. Previously, three have been held at baseball stadiums and two at NFL stadiums (but to be fair, a college team is a tenant at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field).

The annual outdoor game has seen some of the best sites to host a game in just a short existence. Here's this author's humble ranking of the venues the NHL has picked so far.

Heinz had a prime time look. (Getty Images)

6. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (2011)

The weather was uncooperative as it was rainy and mild. While it did add a neat effect, the game had to be delayed to the night time as well.

But Heinz Field just doesn't have a whole lot going for it on the appearance side. It's just another nice football stadium, really. Not much to create a setting.

I would have loved to see the game at the Pirates' PNC Park, with downtown Pittsburgh just across the river in the background including the Roberto Clemente Bridge. That is one of if not the best view in baseball from a stadium.

Citizen's Bank Park was rocking in Philly. (Getty Images)

5. Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia (2012)

Some lamented that Citizen's Bank was just another cookie-cutter baseball stadium for the game, it doesn't have a ton that makes it unique or characteristic. It doesn't have a true flavor.

Still, after delaying the game a couple of hours the weather played along. There was even snow. Although it only came during an intermission, it was a great site to see.

The stadium does have a little visual appeal going for it in that downtown Philly is beyond the centerfield wall, but it's so far away it doesn't feel like you can reach out and touch it like you could in, say, PNC Park.

Buffalo put on the inaugural American outdoor show. (Getty Images)

4. Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo (2008)

The best thing the Bills' stadium had going for it was the snow globe effect. The wind was whipping and the flurries falling, making for a pretty awesome site.

But much like Heinz, there isn't a whole lot that is visually appealing about the stadium itself. It gets a little extra credit for being the first stadium and in a truly cold city like Buffalo.

I think if it weren't the first game and not snowing the way it was, it would be the most forgettable.

The Big House will have a record crowd. (Getty Images)

3. Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor (2013)

Maybe it's just because I like college football too, but the Big House makes for a pretty great setting.

There isn't anything you can see from the stadium. It's just a massive bowl that is completely enclosed. But I expect the pageantry of college football and the stadium itself will come out. The college campus just adds a cool element to me.

With that said, I can't imagine it will be good for the fans at the game. The seats go up slowly in the bowl, they aren't steep. I can't imagine there will be many good seats for seeing the action.

The Green Monster had a monster presence. (Getty Images)

2. Fenway Park, Boston (2010)

The Green Monster? The Pesky Pole? A relatively small and history-laden stadium? Those are all some great ingredients.

Plus, you know, they got to blast Neil Diamond and sing along. I don't ever really see how that can be a problem.

Boston was a good host and Fenway is a great stadium to take in a game, of any sport. You could just see Carlton Fisk still willing that ball fair while the players sported the eye black. I just loved the shots like the one above with the Monster in the background.

Wrigley's charm was impossible to escape. (Getty Images)

1. Wrigley Field, Chicago (2009)

Was there any doubt? This was as good as it will probably ever get, I think. What can really top it?

Wrigley is as classic as the game of baseball. The ivy on the outfield walls the signature sign, but the rooftop bleachers and city of Chicago in the distance? Just a perfect setting.

While it's cheating a little, the jerseys they were wearing added to the appeal of the game for me. They were by far the best sweaters to appear in a Winter Classic so far.

The stadium on the North Side of Chicago had everything to make for a great Classic.

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

Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:13 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 12:39 pm
 

NHL to announce Classic at Big House on Thurs.

The Big House has hosted the biggest hockey attendance ever already. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The NHL will make a major announcement on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at Detroit's Comerica Park. It will then make a second announcement at 1:15 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Because we are really good with the power of deduction, we have a pretty good guess as to what this is all about. Probably something along the lines a Winter Classic at the Big House.

Petty sarcasm aside, there's no doubt now that the league is going to make next year's Winter Classic official, pitting the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs on the campus of the University of Michigan.

The school's Board of Regents signed off on the deal this week to allow the NHL to move in for a little while. Here's more from ESPN.com.

The NHL is offering to pay $3 million to the university for the licensing of the stadium, and the university would give the NHL use of Michigan Stadium from Dec. 1, 2012 until mid-January 2013 -- including time for all potential set-up and breakdown scenarios.

The dual announcement is being done because it has been previously reported that to help bring the festivities to Detroit and appease Wings owner Mike Illitch, Comerica Park, home to the MLB's Tigers, will also host some of the events.

Specifically, the second rink in Detroit will host the majority of the action accroding to the Macomb Daily.

Comerica Park will host an American Hockey League game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, the minor league affiliates of the Wings and Leafs.

It will also be the site of the Great Lakes Invitational, along with two Ontario Hockey League games and numerous high school and youth games.

Michigan and Michigan State will be two of the GLI teams. Three OHL teams – the Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires – have already been confirmed.

Comerica could also host the alumni game between the Wings and Leafs.

Hockey at the Big House has been done before. Michigan played intrastate rival Michigan State a few years back and drew over 100,000 for the game. A similar crowd can no doubt be expected with the Leafs and Wings bringing their Original Six flavor and their big fan bases to campus.

It's also the first time that a Canadian team is getting in on the Winter Classic action, a move that did come as a little surprise when it was first mentioned. The game has become a showcase for hockey in the States, Canada obviously needs no help in promoting the game. It's NBC's biggest hockey telecast of the season by far and ratings are important.

The fear is that a Canadian team won't bring the same ratings, but the Leafs have a lot of fans scattered across America. Same goes for the Wings. I don't think it will be as big of an issue as people think. The spectacle of the Winter Classic is enough to bring in fans of any team to begin with.

The announcement certainly comes a lot earlier than the last one. The NHL didn't make the last game in Philadelphia official until September. It is being a little more proactive this time.

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

Posted on: January 18, 2012 10:44 am
Edited on: January 18, 2012 2:39 pm
 

Report: Winter Classic at Big House finalized

By Brian Stubits

You can cue up Hail to the Victors for next New Year's Day even if the Michigan Wolverines aren't playing in the Rose Bowl.

It has been in the works for some time and now Ansar Khan of MLive.com is reporting that the deal to have the next Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium is done, agreed upon. All that's left is an announcement.

The NHL, the Detroit Red Wings and the University of Michigan have finalized a deal to hold next season’s Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, a source told MLive.com.

The long-rumored matchup between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will take place on Jan. 1, 2013. The Red Wings lobbied to have the game at Comerica Park, but the NHL couldn’t pass up an opportunity to hold this annual outdoor spectacle at "The Big House," where it is expected to attract a record crowd in excess of 110,000.

Khan goes on to report that the announcement won't be made until early February for reasons including the All-Star break and the Red Wings being on the road. He also writes that Comerica Park in Detroit will have its own rink where the other events of the "celebration of hockey" will be held, namely the Alumni Game.

That's an idea I love about this, but I'm sure Dan Craig, the NHL's ice guru, won't appreciate double the work. It gives the Classic a presence in Detroit as well as Ann Arbor.

Now of course the parties involved are denying the report. Here's what Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Globe and Mail: “If and when anything is a ‘done deal’ regarding the Winter Classic, it will be announced. We have made no announcements yet.”

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke echoed toed the company line: “We have not yet received a formal invitation from the NHL. Until we do, this is speculation in my mind.”

University of Michigan AD Dave Brandon confirmed to the AP that there are talks still ongoing, but like the NHL, says it's not exactly done yet. Personally, there has been so much smoke to this for weeks, I think they are just not willing to confirmit yet and want it to wait until the announcement is made.

As soon as the NHL does make it official, this is groundbreaking for the league. It's the first time our neighbors to the North are going to be involved in what has thus far been just an American spectacle. Secondly, it will obliterate the record for attendance at an NHL game set in the inaugural Classic in Buffalo.

I'll be curious to see how much University of Michigan is brought to the game. The Wild card there is how the football team does. If they do win the Big Ten and are playing in the Rose Bowl, it will be very interesting. You will have the game in a college town where their school is playing in the Granddaddy of Them All.

But if Michigan isn't in the Rose Bowl or some other New Year's Day bowl, you could have the possibility of the band being at the game and blending the worlds of hockey and college football. I think it would be really cool if the Red Wings came out like the Michigan football team does and have a banner specially made that says "GO RED -- M Club Supports You" that the players tap with their sticks as they go under.

Either way, it looks like they'll have a long time to plan the details with this announcement looking like it will come way before the NHL's announcement this past September for the most recent Classic playing in Philadelphia.

Photo: Getty Images

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

Posted on: January 13, 2012 2:59 pm
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

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 ESPN.com 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.

Posted on: January 6, 2012 10:33 am
 

Michigan contacted about Big House Winter Classic

By Brian Stubits

Last year it seemed pretty clear that the Rangers would be playing the Flyers well in advance of the NHL's September announcement for the Winter Classic. The host, at least, seems even more inevitable for 2013.

In perhaps the lock of the century, you can feel safe in expecting that the game will be held in Michigan. Other than who would the Detroit Red Wings play is the all-important question of where would the game be played? Many think that Comerica Park, home to the Detroit Tigers and owned by Wings owner Mike Illitch, would be the site because of the Illitch connection.

But the Big House in Ann Arbor -- the University of Michigan's football stadium -- is in play. That's no longer just speculation.

"We have been approached by the NHL about utilizing our facility for the 2013 Winter Classic," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "There are a lot of complex circumstances that need to be ironed out before anything moves forward. We will have more to say if/when something materializes."

Well that's a start. It means that the idea certainly isn't out of play. Of those complex circumstances to sort out would likely be how revenue is split and, all importantly, whose pizza will be sold? Illitch is behind the Little Caesar's brand while Brandon used to be chairman and CEO of Domino's.

Hosting an outdoor hockey game at the Big House would be nothing new. Back in 2010 the school suited up the stadium for a hockey game between the Wolverines and Spartans of Michigan State. More than 109,000 fans were in attendance to see the Wolverines win 5-0.

It would give the NHL a crowd number they would never seen again and, being that it's Michigan, weather likely wouldn't be a concern at all.

Here's my question with the Big House, though: People share their worries about the idea for the Winter Classic losing its appeal, having the novelty wear off. Well would playing a game at a stadium where its already been played before contribute to a "been there, done that" burnout?

It's likely going to come down to those two sites, so which would you rather see?

Photo: Getty Images

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

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