NHL Announces 2013 Winter Classic: Leafs @ Red Wings In The Big House
Well it’s officially here. The news many people have “known” for quite some time has now been made official: the 2013 Winter Classic is headed to the University of Michigan’s Big House to host the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Everything about this game seems to be larger than life. Maybe it’s the insane 115,000-seat stadium that will break attendance records. Maybe it’s the first Canadian team in a Winter Classic, one that sells out almost every night. Maybe it’s the prestige of “Hockeytown” versus “the Centre of the Hockey Universe”. And maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that the news about this game “leaked” almost right after the 2012 Winter Classic that shows the excitement for a marquee matchup such as this.
In any case this game is set to be an amazing spectacle. Both teams have incredible fan support that will sell out this massive stadium almost instantly. They have rich histories in the NHL that place them second (Toronto) and third (Detroit) all time in Stanley Cup victories. The teams seem to always fill up stadiums both at home and on the road and this big event should be no exception.
What makes this matchup even more exciting (and the fact that was announced 11 months prior) is the speculation about where these two teams could be next January. It’s no secret that the Red Wings are an old roster and are getting older, and if nothing happens for them this postseason some big name players could be gone.
Will captain and long-time Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom still be around in a year from now? Can Detroit still keep all of their younger stars? Who knows what this lineup will look like in 2013.
On the other side of the ice, Toronto has returned to “up-and-coming” status, as they appear to be in a post-rebuilding stage and looking to be a strong team in coming years. Toronto is very young and very fast and once they finalize their go-to lineup they could be a playoff team every year. The Leafs have the longer history, but Detroit is the older team.
Speculation can also be made about who will play for each side in the Alumni Game. I believe it’s safe to assume that players like Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov could be expected to suit up for the Wings. As for the Blue and White, I’m sure all of Leafs Nation would love to see the return of Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Mats Sundin and Felix Potvin. The Alumni Game is shaping up to be almost as exciting as the actual Winter Classic.
Besides for the teams themselves, the announcement of these two teams as participants is a tremendous step forward for the NHL. When the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg before this season many fans and analysts were outspoken about the fact that Canadian markets are where hockey should be in the NHL, but that American cities can be formidable hockey locations when the situation is right. By placing the first Canadian team in the Winter Classic against the hockey hotbed in America, the league is realizing what the fans want and what the sport needs.
The Toronto fan base is enormous and will buy as many tickets to this Classic weekend as they can get their hands on. By having faith in the Maple Leafs to be the first Canadian team in this event, the league has chosen well to ensure another successful Winter Classic.
Could their really be two better teams for a Canada/USA matchup in the Winter Classic? Detroit has been arguably the most dominant team over the last few decades and is always a threat to win the Stanley Cup. Toronto is the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame and some of the greatest hockey history in the entire league. It’s almost too perfect.
We now begin the long 11 months toward this amazing New Year’s event that will be filled with logo and jersey unveilings, alumni invitations and an amazing HBO special. I can hardly wait.