Tag:Mike Illitch
Posted on: February 9, 2012 10:39 am
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:26 pm
 

NHL announces Winter Classic to be at Big House

By Brian Stubits

The NHL made it all officially official on Thursday in Detroit. The Winter Classic will be held at the Big House in Ann Arbor against the Maple Leafs and Red Wings next New Year's Day.

"It's Hockeytown against the center of the hockey universe" Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke joked at the news conference.

It had been in the works for a while. The talk of the press box at the Winter Classic in Philly just over a month ago was that Detroit was going to be hosting the game. Since then everything has come into focus and the NHL just clarified (and confirmed) it all.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said that there will be about 115,000 tickets available for the game, and assuming they sell them all (they will) it will break the record for a hockey audience, also achieved at Michigan Stadium when University of Michigan played Michigan State.

"I'm all pshyced, I want to get my skates!" Red Wings owner Mike Illitch said. "But I can't skate."

In addition to the big game, downtown Detroit will be hosting events all week with the Hockeytown Winter Festival including the Alumni Game at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. The rink in Detroit will be very busy as college and OHL games will also be held there.

In making the announcement, Bettman estimated that the events in Detroit itself will bring 150,000-200,000 fans to the city for all the events.

It will prove to be the busiest Winter Classic held to date, hands down. Not only will there be significantly more action on the rinks, but there will be two rinks at two stadiums. That will be a lot of work. But the good news is that nothing should affect the ice for the NHL game as Ann Arbor will only host the main event.

Personally, I think it's a fantastic idea, even if it will make life a little tough on the behind-the-scenes people and those covering the events, shuffling back and forth between the cities.

Hockeytown hosting the best week of outdoor hockey? Yes, please!

More from Eye on Hockey

Ranking the Winter Classic venues
Alumni Game possibilities

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.

Posted on: January 3, 2012 10:21 am
 

Caps owner: Winter Classic won't be D.C.'s in '13

By Brian Stubits

Before the Winter Classic was finished in Philadelphia on Monday, the speculation was running in the press box of Citizen's Bank Park: Where will the next Winter Classic be?

After the game, Gary Bettman said the NHL had not put together a short list but judging from past Winter Classics -- i.e. temperature, time zone, TV draw -- you can get an idea of where they might look to.

One of those places, it was assumed, was Washington D.C. It has been out there that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was essentially promised a winter event coming to D.C. in the near future so many speculated it would be next year. Speculation over: it's not happening.

In his personal blog, Leonsis addressed the matter on Tuesday, also talking about the possibility of a game being played on the National Mall, the strip of landmarks that stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial and Reflecting Pool in between.

So – to set the record straight – there has NOT been any communication to us on a formal basis as to a Winter Classic coming to DC in a specific year. I have been told that the Winter Classic will NOT be coming to DC next year though. I have also been assured that because of the size of our fan base – and the beauty of our city – that a Winter Classic would come to Washington DC; at some point in the future. And that is good enough for me.

Also– the idea of a game being played on the Mall has been floated around for many years – it is NOT feasible; there aren’t enough common areas to build out seats – and the expense involved to create locker rooms; icestands and studios are prohibitive. The Mall is managed by the National Park Services; as well.

I am sure that one day – when a Winter Classic does come to DC; we will be creative and have fun and put on a great show. There are great venues for us to utilize and great theatre that we can create for NHL fans and our large fan base here in the DMV.

I guess that takes care of that one, now doesn't it? The D.C. Classic will have to wait longer but there is still a definite vibe it will happen. It's just too bad the Mall can't be done, that would make for an unbeatable setting.

The rumor that was picking up steam before Leonsis' posting was that Detroit is the favorite to host the next game, a good bet to be sure. There is even some talk being thrown out there that the Toronto Maple Leafs could be the opponent, a somewhat surprising idea since the Winter Classic has shown to be an American event designed to draw interest in the USA and garner ratings. Personally, I never thought having a big-market Canadian team would hurt but it didn't seem to appeal to the NHL.

Could they host it at the Big House, the University of Michigan's football stadium? Of course they could, the stadium has held more than 100,000 people in the past for a hockey game. However, don't forget that Red Wings owner Mike Illitch also owns the Detroit Tigers and he'd have a lot of say in the event being played at one of his team's venues, Comerica Park.

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