| NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (Photo Dave Reginek/NHLI)
DETROIT -- Hockeytown and The Big House will come together next winter for what is expected to be a historic holiday extravaganza of hockey culminating with the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
The National Hockey League announced Sunday that the long-anticipated Winter Classic matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Red Wings at Michigan Stadium on the campus of University of Michigan will take place on Jan. 1, 2014.
A world record crowd for an ice hockey game could attend the event, potentially surpassing the 104,173 people attending the game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University at Michigan Stadium in 2010.
"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."
The 2014 Winter Classic will be the second between division rivals -- the New York Rangers played the Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in 2012.
Under the NHL's realignment plan beginning with the 2013-14 season, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will be competing in the same division in the Eastern Conference.
Detroit and Toronto have played 644 times since Jan. 4, 1927, when the Toronto St. Patricks defeated the Detroit Cougars 2-1. Detroit holds a slim edge in points gained in the all-time series, 646-645.
However, the Winter Classic game in Ann Arbor, Mich. between the two Original Six franchises is only the final piece of a hockey-centric celebration in downtown Detroit.
More than 250,000 people are expected to descend on Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers, for the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival, an outdoor celebration of hockey that will start in mid-December. The infield of the Tigers' home ballpark will be turned into a hockey rink that will be open to the public and will feature games between teams representing every level of hockey, including NHL alumni.
The 2014 Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs Alumni Showdown on New Year's Eve will be the featured event at Comerica Park. There are enough alumni expected to participate that two games will be necessary.
The SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival will also feature American Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, NCAA, high school and youth games.
"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," Commissioner Bettman said, referencing the owners of the Detroit Red Wings. "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."