Friday, February 10, 2012

2013 NHL Winter Classic

       One of the worst kept secrets in the NHL was revealed yesterday as the Toronto Maple Leafs will cross the border to face the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 Bridgestone Winter Classic.  This is something that as a Leafs fan I know that I have been waiting for.  Of the seven outdoor games that have been held by the NHL only three Canadian teams have been involved.  A fact that most Canadians are really not happy with.  It has appeared that NBC, the network the game is broadcast on has been hesitant to involve a Canadian team due to wanting to make sure ratings remain high.  However to the delight of Leafs fans ratings dropped a tad this year and they became a little more open to having an original six team join in on the fun.

       The announcement was made at Comerica Park in Detroit by Commissioner Gary Bettman.  The event itself has become much larger with AHL, OHL, University, and youth teams taking part in the weekend.  Comerica Park will host the annual Alumni game which should showcase some old favourites of the Leafs with the likes of Gilmour, Clark, Sundin, and Sittler taking part.  Perhaps Felix Potvin can make his way into the net for the Leafs as well.  There will be an AHL game between the Toronto Marlies and the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliates of the Leafs and Red Wings.  Four Michigan universities will take part in the festivities.  And two OHL games will be played.  The first being the Windsor Spitfires vs the Saginaw Spirit and the second being the London Knights vs the Plymouth Whalers.  These events in themselves will draw fans from across the border to take part in the festivities.

The Big House
       Then comes the big game.  The Maple Leafs and the Red Wings will play on the largest stage of any NHL game.  The game will be played at the Big House on the University of Michigan campus.  The stadiums capacity holds a little over 100,000 but the NHL wants to try and push it to around 115,000.  This rivalry is one of the oldest in the history of the NHL with both teams going back to the formation of the NHL.  The teams have met an astounding total of 644 times with Detroit holding a slight edge with 275 wins to Torontos 273.  A fact that shows how close that these games have been.  Now that the teams are in separate conferences they only play once a year.  And every time they meet it has the aura of a playoff game.  Something that should be heightened within the atmosphere of the Winter Classic.
Brian Burke

       As Brian Burke said at the press conference "It will be Hockeytown vs. the Center of the Hockey Universe."  Brian stated that Gary came to him and asked if he could sell 40,000 tickets.  Brian replied with "give me 48 hours."  Gary replied with ok how about 50,000.  Brian came back with "give me 72."  A statement of confidence from Burke who knows that Leafs Nation will make the treck to Michigan and will fight to make that crowd as close to a home game as they can get it.  And as another bonus the Leafs GM will be able to take part in the hit series HBO 24/7.  An uncensored inside look at both teams.  That in itself is going to be worth the price of admission.

       This is an event that brings out the best in all involved.  The Maple Leafs players have already expressed their excitement and the city of Detroit is going to make a great host.  The Leafs have improved over the course of the last couple seasons and always bring their best when they play Detroit.  This should be everything a hockey fan wants in a Winter Classic.  And for Red Wings fans I can almost guarantee that this will be enough to bring your captain Nicklas Lidstrom back for one more season.  How could you resist with an event like this.

       I can state right now that The Big J B and myself will do our best to get tickets to the event and will make that trip with our Leafs jerseys and cheer them on as loud as any fan.  It should be an atmosphere like none other and will show that Leafs Nation is home to the greatest fans in the hockey universe.

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