Winter Classic: Weather delaying some fans' arrival as game nears

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

The snow keeps fallin as the crowd piles in. (CBSSports.com Original)
The snow keeps falling as the crowd piles in. (CBSSports.com Original)

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. --While the venture to Michigan Stadium is proving to be difficult for many of the fans who spent a pretty penny on tickets to the Winter Classic, the Big House is filling up in anticipation of the annual game. But maybe not as fast as expected.

The heavy snowfall that has been falling across central Michigan all morning long has reaked havoc on those fans who dared to drive into Ann Arbor for the big game, bring traffic to a near standstill on the roadways into town.Many fans have littered the concourse and surrounding area in the pregame hours.

Still, there were plenty of empty seats in this massive building as the Red Wings and Maple Leafs came out of the tunnel for their pregame skates. That's the downside of the snowy weather for the game: it hampers the travel for fans coming to the game.

The NHL is out to set an attendance record for an outdoor game today, a mark that was previously set at the Big House in NCAA action. The weather might have that quest in danger before we even talk about what the snow could do to the playing surface, which has been continuously shoveled all morning long.

So the big question this morning: Is this the NHL's dream scenario or nightmare? Because it looks phenomenal, but might not be the best all things considered. Then again, when people watch it on TV, it's going to be all the league could hope for.

I guess you take the good with the bad and it's not like it's going to affect the NHL's bottom line.

Outdoor hockey scrooges have become more commonplace in the recent past, particularly with the addition of the Stadium Series to the annual Winter Classic. But there are loads of reasons why they NHL keeps planning these games.

All you have to do is take a quick tour around Michigan Stadium and see why. The crowd continues piling in, more than 100,000 expected and each paying at least $100 for their ticket. Everywhere you look you not only see either a Maple Leafs or Red Wings jersey, but you see a ton of the special Winter Classic Maple Leafs or Red Wings jerseys.

Then for those that didn't buy one before the game, a whole bunch more are waiting in lines in the freezing cold to get one.

The lines for merchandise stretch deep. (CBSSports.com Original)
The lines for merchandise stretch deep still. (CBSSports.com Original)

Cha. Ching.

That's without even mentioning the $9 for a single beer (either Molson or Coors Light, presumably depending on your nationality) and on a day like today, $5 for a cup of hot chocolate sounds like a pretty excellent deal.

Fans have come to gripe about the skyrocketing salary cap year after year and wonder what the lockout was for. Well fact is, business is good and that is never more clear than when you take a look at the Winter Classic. What is billed as a celebration of hockey (not wrongfully so) is a lot more than just that. As long as the crows show up (even if the snow keeps some back), the games will keep on coming.

 
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