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Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

Winter Classic GMs are a study in contrasts

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

DETROIT -- Say this about Brian Burke: He knows how to sell a game.

Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs' GM, became the star of the show -- as expected -- during Thursday's news conference at Comerica Park to announce the 2013 Winter Classic, which will pit his Leafs against the host Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

It's a game with a ton of sizzle and an array of subplots.

Winter Festival provides great opportunity for Detroit

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

DETROIT -- Mike Ilitch wanted to make sure the world understood why the people in this city and across the State of Michigan refer to this place as "Hockeytown."

That, in essence, is the biggest reason the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be spread over roughly 45 miles and two separate outdoor ice rinks next winter. One will be at the University of Michigan's massive football stadium in Ann Arbor, which will host the actual game, while the other will be located smack dab in the heart of the Motor City at Comerica Park -- where Ilitch's Detroit Tigers play baseball during the summer.

That rink will play host to a number of hockey-related events over a two-week span leading up to the big game in Ann Arbor -- including the NHL Alumni Showdown, the tradition-rich Great Lakes Invitational college tournament, two games between Ontario Hockey League teams, one game between the American Hockey League affiliates of Detroit and Toronto, high school and youth contests and even an open skate.

Wings vets excited for second Classic opportunity

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Jimmy Howard was playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League when the Detroit Red Wings beat the rival Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

He thinks that he watched that matchup -- played in Chicago's Wrigley Field -- from his apartment in Grand Rapids. However, Howard can't be sure of that because he isn't even sure whether the Griffins were on the road or at home. He'll probably remember his whereabouts on Thursday a little better.

Along with a host of NHL dignitaries, media and four Red Wings teammates, Howard stood at midfield of Michigan Stadium on Thursday afternoon for the second of two press conferences to announce the NHL's matchup for the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic -- pitting the Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game that could break the world attendance record for a hockey game.

First look at stadium wows Bettman, Datsyuk

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Gary Bettman has been on many big stages in his time as commissioner of the National Hockey League. But nothing prepared him for his first encounter with the Michigan Stadium, the 110,000-capacity behemoth affectionately known as the Big House.

"In one word, 'Wow!'" Bettman said in his remarks Thursday from Michigan Stadium on a brilliant winter afternoon. "There is a reason they call it the 'Big House' and we couldn't be more thrilled to have the opportunity to play here next New Year's Day."
Bettman had never been to Michigan Stadium before and was clearly taken aback by the size and scope of the biggest stadium in North America. He came down the tunnel -- the only entrance to the playing field -- and walked onto the sideline at the 50-yard line with the synthetic turf laid before him like an oasis; one surrounded by row after row of aluminum benches and capped by two-year-old banks of luxury suites.

Pavel Datsyuk, one of five Detroit players to make an appearance at Thursday's presser at Michigan Stadium, came away equally impressed. He said the excitement kept building as he walked down the downhill tunnel toward the square of sunlight that marked the entrance to the field. 

CuJo, Leetch ready to join forces for Alumni

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Curtis Joseph is ready and willing to be one of the goaltenders for the Toronto Maple Leafs alumni team in the NHL Alumni Showdown at Comerica Park in Detroit.

"I heard about it, I thought about it, and I was like, 'Yeah, I want to do that,' " Joseph told on Thursday from Wayne Gretzky's Fantasy Camp. "There was no question in my mind."

Joseph played four seasons in Toronto (1998-2002). He won 33 or more games three times and was twice a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. He also had a brief comeback with the Leafs, playing 21 games in 2008-09. After leaving Toronto the first time, he played for Detroit for parts of two seasons, but if he was going to play in the alumni game it would only be for the Leafs.

Wings, Leafs to play '13 Winter Classic at Big House

Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

DETROIT -- The NHL's Winter Classic has grown bigger each season of its five-year existence. It's only fitting that the next stop for the Jan. 1 outdoor game will be at Michigan Stadium, known by many as "The Big House."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Thursday morning the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic -- between Original Six rivals Detroit and Toronto -- will be played at the home of the University of Michigan's football team in Ann Arbor.

"These two Original Six rivals will take the Winter Classic to a new record-setting level," Bettman said in announcing the game.

Bettman made the announcement at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, which will host the Hockeytown Winter Festival, a week-long celebration of the game at all levels.

Michigan Stadium's history marked by great games

"The Big Chill was great. We set an [attendance] record and every time you think about it, it sends chills down your spine. It was one of those things that is only going to happen once and it was a lot of fun." -- Michigan forward and New Jersey Devils prospect David Wohlberg

It houses more people than any other stadium in the country, and it is home to the most successful college football program as well.

Michigan Stadium, built 85 years ago and expanded on multiple occasions since, is one of this country's signature sporting arenas, and it will be the site of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the League announced Thursday. College football's most famous announcer, the legendary Keith Jackson, is credited with nicknaming Michigan Stadium as "The Big House" and it has lived up to that moniker.

The official capacity is 109,901 after the most recent renovation, but the large bowl in Ann Arbor routinely fits more than 111,000 people on Saturdays in the fall. Michigan played a night game at the venerable stadium for the first time in 2011, and an NCAA-record 114,804 saw the Wolverines defeat rival Notre Dame in one of the most entertaining contests of the college football season.

Alumni of 'Big Chill' game recall special experience

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

Shaun Hunwick is one of two people to ever lead his hockey team onto the playing surface at Michigan Stadium.

Hunwick, the starting goaltender for Michigan in "The Big Chill at The Big House" on Dec. 11, 2010, is an authority on what it is like to step onto the ice with more than 100,000 people watching and waiting in anticipation.

"It is just a sea of people," Hunwick said. "If you've ever been to the Big House, it's not so much straight up as it is dug deep and there are so many rows. We run those stairs in the stadium every fall for conditioning, so we know exactly how many rows there are. It is so many people.

"Coming out and touching the banner -- I was the first guy to touch the 'Go Blue' banner that the football guys normally run past and grab. That was a neat experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life."

Added forward and Phoenix Coyotes prospect Chris Brown: "During warmups you got a little taste of what it's like to be a football player here. All of us for sure were looking around. We probably got a little distracted. Once the game started, we were able to stay focused and it was just a great event."

Detroit Red Wings to host Toronto Maple Leafs in Hockeytown for 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium Jan. 1, 2013

Event poised to set all-time attendance record for a hockey game

NEW YORK -- The Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on the University of Michigan campus in the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® on Tuesday, Jan. 1, the National Hockey League announced today. Nicknamed "The Big House," the stadium is the largest in North America. It is anticipated that the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® could set an all-time world attendance record for a hockey game. The game will be broadcast live on NBC in the U.S. and on CBC and RDS in Canada.

"The Red Wings' tradition of excellence, Detroit's passion for hockey and the glorious history of the Maple Leafs create a Winter Classic scenario for the ages," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "The meeting of these two 'Original Six' rivals, at this iconic venue, will lift this Winter Classic to incomparable heights. The demand to be there will be so great that this event could only be held at 'The Big House.'"

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