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 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.

Comments

Since: Nov 18, 2007
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:20 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

He won't be back in AA anytime soon without a police escort, persona non grata.
galf- The P12 and B10 have signed a deal for more interconference games. Zona could be in AA soon er than you know. Laughing




Since: Mar 5, 2010
Posted on: January 16, 2012 7:17 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

He won't be back in AA anytime soon without a police escort, persona non grata.



Since: Nov 18, 2007
Posted on: January 15, 2012 12:13 pm
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

 Git er done......looking forward to the game.


galf- Any chance that D^ckrod will fly in from Zona to be your guest? Wink  Laughing



Since: Mar 5, 2010
Posted on: January 15, 2012 10:13 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

I think it's a brilliant play on at least two fronts; it's a storied old rivalry and it will set an attendance record for the ages. Out-of-town hockey fans will also come to learn what out-of-town college football fans have known for some time, Ann Arbor is a great little town for your visiting pleasure. Git er done......looking forward to the game.



Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: January 14, 2012 9:59 pm
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Can't wait, I'll be there! Best hockey state in America.



Since: Apr 1, 2010
Posted on: January 14, 2012 9:00 pm
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Let me also mock myself. I would have been smart to have read my own post for mistakes before posting. I checked the spelling, but it would have been good to actually read it so I saw that I had left a few extra words in there. I "TWO" WAS "TWO" "RABID" WHEN I HIT THE SEND BUTTON.



Since: Apr 1, 2010
Posted on: January 14, 2012 8:55 pm
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

By G.DOHRMANN "Leafs fans are rapid...Too great fan bases. Also, gets the Canadan market into this game. Smart move on all fronts." Your enthusiasm is nice. Please indulge me in giving you a hard time for a post that would have been better with a quick review before you hit the send button. Some simple lessons in the English language: (1). Leafs fans are not "rapid" (i.e. fast). They are "rabid" (i.e. rabies from a dog bite) (2) "too" means also. The number "two" follows "one" (3) people from Canada are "Canada" are "Canadian", not "Canadan" (4) spelling your name with ALL CAPS. You do know that CAPITAL LETTERS ARE LIKE SCREAMING WHEN YOU TYPE, RIGHT? Regarding the basis of the argument, the Canadian market means nothing for NBC. Their advertisers only pay for the people who watch TV in the US. The viewers in Canada would not help that.



Since: Oct 8, 2010
Posted on: January 14, 2012 10:40 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Fabulous. An original six showdown in the Big House will be the best winter classic to date.



Since: Feb 4, 2009
Posted on: January 14, 2012 9:51 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

This will be the biggest attendance record for a Winter Classic in history against two old rivals of the NHL:Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium before 110,000 fans at "The Big House"and its the largest football stadium in the country.Ann Arbor is about 43 miles west of downtown Detroit.



Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: January 14, 2012 9:13 am
 

Reports: Leafs-Wings at Big House all but done

Doubt any more/less watch Toronto/Detroit than any of the other games. Getting the game back on an actual holiday instead of fake New Years on January 2nd probably will help. Haven't seen the ratings, but would not be surprised if this year's game took a hit. I know quite a few that had to work on that Monday, though delaying it may have helped a bit.


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