Leafs and Wings to face off at big house in Winter Classic

Two iconic franchises, two passionate fanbases and the largest stadium in North America. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings are set to take the Winter Classic to a whole new level in 2013.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Two iconic franchises, two passionate fanbases and the largest stadium in North America. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings are set to take the Winter Classic to a whole new level in 2013.

“It’s Hockeytown versus the centre of the hockey universe,” Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said Thursday.

The two Original Six foes will play outdoors at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1, part of an outdoor showcase that will also include minor league and college hockey games at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

Toronto will become the first Canadian team to play in the Winter Classic when the Maple Leafs and Red Wings face off in Ann Arbor, about 75 kilometres west of Detroit.

They’ll arrive with a large contingent of fans who only needed about an hour to crash the ticket pre-sale website after Thursday’s announcement. The team’s official Twitter feed cited “overwhelming demand” for the problem.

Michigan Stadium — affectionately known as the Big House — drew a Guinness World Record crowd of 104,173 for a 2010 NCAA hockey game. The NHL is expecting to eclipse that mark with ease.

“Even with 115,000 or more tickets available, we still won’t have enough to satisfy the demand,” said commissioner Gary Bettman.

The Detroit-Toronto rivalry dates to 1927. Although the teams are currently in different conferences, they’ve played 117 playoff games against each other, second only to the 170 meetings between Boston and Montreal.

Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have all hosted the Winter Classic. With the Detroit area hosting next year, Bettman felt the time was right to include a team from Canada.

“We thought that we had built this event to a level where it made sense to do it, and that even from a U.S. network television standpoint, we were comfortable that it would work well,” Bettman said.

The event will also likely see the teams given extra exposure on HBO.

Even though nothing has been finalized with the U.S. cable network, a league source confirmed the NHL intends to open its doors to the all-access “24/7” series for a third straight year.

There have been two outdoor Heritage Classics on Canadian soil: Montreal vs. Edmonton at Commonwealth Stadium in 2003, and Montreal vs. Calgary at McMahon Stadium last year. The game in Edmonton was the league’s first outdoor regular-season game.

Although Detroit hasn’t hosted the Winter Classic, the Red Wings played in it in 2009, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 at Wrigley Field, home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs.

While the centrepiece game next January will take place in a college town, the league is making sure to include Detroit, scheduling what it calls the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New federal climate think tank looking for a road map to zero emissions

OTTAWA — A new climate change think tank funded by the federal… Continue reading

Statistics Canada says manufacturing sales down 0.6 per cent in November

OTTAWA — Canadian manufacturing sales fell more than expected in November as… Continue reading

Thunberg scolds Davos elites over climate as Trump arrives

DAVOS, Switzerland — Four young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, scolded the… Continue reading

Prison service trying to better understand the needs of black offenders

OTTAWA — Canada’s prison service is working to better understand the needs… Continue reading

Fracking caused March 2019 earthquake near Sylvan Lake, say scientists

4.18 earthquake south of Sylvan Lake rattled doors and windows as far as Red Deer

WATCH: Canadian kid shovelling snow video goes viral

Rory might just be Canada’s most popular toddler right now, thanks to… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Jan. 22 Downtown House Senior Center (5414 43 St.) in Red Deer… Continue reading

CFL reaches co-operative partnership agreement with Brazilian federation

TORONTO — Add Brazil to the CFL 2.0 initiative. The league announced… Continue reading

David Marsden: Warm tales about the cold

The recent deep freeze has rocked all of us. Every Red Deer… Continue reading

Richard T. Lee makes British Open, joining fellow Canadians Conners and Hadwin

SINGAPORE — Toronto’s Richard T. Lee is the third Canadian to qualify… Continue reading

Film probes radical black-Latino-poor white 1960s alliance

Civil rights activists were still mourning the 1968 assassinations of Rev. Martin… Continue reading

Nine times lucky? Alberta’s Northern Cree takes another shot at Grammy gold

TORONTO — Even the biggest pop stars might want to clear the… Continue reading

Soldiers trade rifles for snow shovels to help dig out St. John’s

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Military personnel armed with shovels spread out across… Continue reading

Most Read