| (Photo by Dan Mannes/Detroit Red Wings)
DETROIT – There’s no such thing as too much hockey.
The Red Wings are setting out to prove that theory with a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the 2013 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival, a five-day celebration of hockey leading up to the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic that fans don’t want to miss.
The hockey and winter-themed event for all ages will take place starting today and running through New Year’s Eve, and includes the Coke Zero Fan Zone, the annual Great Lakes Invitational, an Ontario Hockey League doubleheader, an American Hockey League game, and the much-anticipated Alumni Showdown, featuring some of the greatest former players in Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs history.
Guests can enjoy the Coke Zero Fan Zone outside Comerica Park, a 122,000-square-foot hockey fan event spanning three heated tents featuring a variety of activities, which will complement the nine hockey games taking place at Comerica Park.
Inside the Fan Zone, attendees will find a full-size street hockey rink, a full-size synthetic rink, video game challenges, photo opportunities with the Stanley Cup, alumni autograph booths, a SnowZilla toboggan slide, a bounce house, fire pit warming stations, hot cocoa and s’mores stations, over 25 local music acts, multiple Detroit restaurants and much more.
The Fan Zone is free for fans with tickets to that day’s hockey games, while admission for non-ticketholders is just $5 each day, available for purchase at the entrance.
The 49th annual Great Lakes Invitational will kick-off the hockey portion of the festival, featuring an exclusive Michigan-based field of collegiate hockey teams competing for the tournament championship. The Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Tech Huskies will get the excitement started with a 3:30 p.m. face-off on Friday, followed by a matchup between the Western Michigan Broncos and Michigan Wolverines at 7 p.m. The tournament’s consolation game will be played Saturday afternoon, with the GLI championship game scheduled for a 7 p.m. start Saturday.
Michigan Tech won the four-team tournament last December, which has traditionally been held at Joe Louis Arena since 1979. Before then it was at Olympia Stadium, where it quickly grew to become one of the most prestigious college tournaments in the country. But this year will be the first time the GLI games will brave the outdoors at Comerica Park.
On Sunday, the OHL takes over Comerica Park with a Western Conference doubleheader. The Windsor Spitfires take on the Saginaw Spirit at 1:30 p.m., followed by the London Knights battle with the Plymouth Whalers at 5 p.m.
London defeated Plymouth in the season-opener, 3-0, back in September. The Knights are the OHL’s only team to have at least one player selected in the NHL draft every year since 1983. Current Knights defenseman Santino Centorame and left wing Christian Dvorak are on the NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list and are looking to continue the team’s success at the 2014 NHL draft.
West Division rivals Windsor and Saginaw have also met this season, splitting their first two contests.
On Monday, Hockeytown fans will have a unique opportunity to watch their franchise’s future in their backyard, as the defending Calder Cup champions and Detroit minor league affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins take on the Toronto Marlies at 5 p.m. Current Griffins Adam Almquist, Xavier Ouellet and Luke Glendening have been recalled by the Red Wings at various points this season, while Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo will return to the Motor City for the AHL matchup after being assigned to Grand Rapids last month.
The Griffins are led by Tomas Jurco, who is currently among the top 10 point producers in the AHL. Jurco recorded one goal and one assist in the lone meeting between the two Western Conference teams this season, in which the Marlies defeated the Griffins 4-3 in overtime.
The Winter Festival will conclude when legends from both the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings take the ice at Comerica Park on Tuesday for a doubleheader. Those scheduled to appear at and participate in the showdown include Hockey Hall of Famers Ted Lindsay, Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Larry Murphy, and Viachaslav Fetisov, as well as Wings legends Mickey Redmond, Chris Osgood, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kris Draper and many more. The games are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., allowing fans to have one more opportunity to watch their favorite retired players take the ice in a unique outdoor setting, rekindling their fondest Hockeytown memories.
For more information about the Winter Festival and Winter Classic, please visit DetroitRedWings.com/2014winterclassic.