|The rink should go back up for next Jan. 1. (Getty Images)|
For the second straight year, it looks like the Winter Classic will be planned for New Year's Day at the University of Michigan, a game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Only this time, it should actually happen.
You'll recall that the annual outdoor game was looking like it was going to have an all-time record for NHL attendance by playing in the Big House this past Jan. 1 only to have the game called off because of that silly lockout. The assumption by pretty much everybody with a pulse was that the Winter Classic plans would stay the same, just change the date by a year.
As you probably expected, that appears to be a safe assumption. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reports the NHL is preparing the final details to play the next Winter Classic at the Big House.
But the Star has learned that the NHL is closing in on final talks with officials at the University of Michigan for use of its football stadium, and with the Detroit Tigers for use of Comerica Park in what would be a weeklong festival of hockey capped off by the NHL game.
"My guess is we will officially announce plans in early spring," a source told the Star.
There was a lot of anticipation of this matchup: an Original Six battle in front of potentially 110,000 fans and involving a Canadian team for the first time. Considering the location, there figured to be no issues with the weather, either.
And, of course, there was the excitement for HBO 24/7. Who didn't want to see Pavel Datsyuk behind the scenes to see if he's really a cyborg? Hopefully, the plans won't change on that front and we'll get a third edition of the spectacular series. For many, the show is better than the actual game.
There certainly was no expectation that anything but this would be the case for the 2014 Winter Classic, but it's good to get affirmation that it is indeed likely to be finalized soon. You never can be completely sure that something will pop up and the event couldn't be rescheduled because, for my money, the Big House is the best setting since Fenway Park.