The 2014 Winter Classic will look a lot like what the 2013 Winter Classic was supposed to look like if it wasn't canceled. As expected, the NHL made it official with a news conference Sunday morning that the Detroit Red Wings will meet the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, in Ann Arbor, Mich. The two squads will square off at Michigan Stadium, better known as The Big House, home of the University of Michigan football team.
"The history of the teams' cross-border rivalry, the nobility of The Big House and the growing tradition of the NHL Winter Classic will raise the anticipation for this event to new heights," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "We are delighted to offer our fans a spectacle at which the energy will be unmatched and the demand for tickets will be unprecedented. For anyone involved in any way -- as a player, a coach, an official, a fan -- this NHL Winter Classic will be a truly memorable hockey moment."
On top of the Winter Classic, the Hockeytown Winter Festival will serve as a complimentary event, which will be highlighted by games on an ice sheet at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Among the events there will be: AHL games, OHL games, college hockey’s Great Lakes Invitational tournament, and alumni games featuring Red Wings and Maple Leafs of years past.
"In addition to representing a dramatic new step in the evolution of the NHL Winter Classic, the Hockeytown Winter Festival reflects the love Mike and Marian Ilitch have for the City of Detroit and its hockey fans," Bettman said. "The scheduled activities will bring tens of thousands of fans downtown to connect with the NHL Winter Classic excitement, to enjoy the festival experience and to share their passion for the sport."
Though the delay was inconvenient, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will actually meet as division rivals, which should make for some terrific content for HBO’s 24/7 series. Bettman announced HBO will be back to produce the popular series, with episodes airing in December.
While most of the events and details were already known from the planned 2013 Winter Classic, Sunday morning’s announcement featured the unveiling of the Winter Classic jerseys. In some cases, the jerseys get just as much attention as the event itself.
With two Original Six teams with such rich hockey histories, these uniforms were highly anticipated.
Here’s the description for both teams’ jerseys that will be worn at the main event.
The Red Wings will wear iconic red and antique white uniforms featuring a striping pattern and arch Detroit wordmark inspired by the late-1920s Detroit Cougars™. The front crest is an early iteration of the winged wheel from the late 1930s, featuring a novelty felt appliqué with a distinct chain stitch embroidery.
The Maple Leafs will wear a royal blue and white unique uniform design and distinct striping configuration inspired by the Leafs circa the 1930s, a time when the franchise won its first Stanley Cup®. The front crest is a felt appliqué with a very distinct wordmark from the inaugural Maple Leafs logo, revealed in 1927.
The alumni game will also feature special jerseys, with the Red Wings wearing the red version of their jerseys from the 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago, while the Maple Leafs alumni will wear an updated version of the jerseys form the 1970s.
The alumni events could be star-studded as well with some of the great stars of yesteryear already committed to participate including Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald and as Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said, most of Detroit’s famed Russian Five will be on hand. Holland even joked that he’ll be putting pressure on current Tampa Bay GM and former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman to suit up. In fact, so many former stars have signed on that there will be a doubleheader of alumni games at Comerica Park. The 2013 Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs Alumni Showdown will take place on Dec. 31, 2013.
Organizers expect more than 200,000 spectators at the Comerica Park events, while The Big House is likely to host over 110,000 for the Winter Classic.
It appears the organizing committee has made the most of the extra time, planning to go bigger and better with that extra year of planning.
It was sad to see the marquee regular-season event for the NHL canceled this year, but when Jan. 1, 2014, rolls around it looks like it will have been worth the wait.