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Winter Festival to feature prep games

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings

DETROIT – The 2013 Winter Classic promises to be the culmination of a two-week festival revolving around ice hockey.

Beginning Dec. 15, and ending with the Red Wings-Maple Leafs game on New Year’s Day at Michigan Stadium, the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival will allow fans of all ages to relish in the spirit of the event.

Ancillary events for the winter festival have been a work in progress ever since the participants and location of the Winter Classic were announced last February. But before the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI), AHL and OHL games and the Wings- Leafs Alumni Showdown take place, downtown Detroit will be buzzing with activity. From Dec. 15-26, the “Celebration of Hockey” portion of the Winter Festival will commence, featuring high school and youth hockey games, corporate outings and open skates at the rink to be installed on the field at Comerica Park.

So far, 10 prep games are slated with opponents for nine games scheduled to take place during the event’s first week. The list of participating prep teams includes a pair of boys state championship teams with Brighton (Division 1) and Birmingham Brother Rice (Division 2) squaring off against its rivals Howell and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook, respectively. A girls high school game is also planned between Northville and Grosse Pointe South, and cross-town foes Traverse City West and Traverse City Central will make the 250 mile trip to play at Comerica Park

Cody Inglis, athletic director at Traverse City Central, expressed his school’s enthusiasm for the opportunity to play at Comerica Park during the Hockeytown Winter Festival.

“We jumped on it right away,” Inglis said. “We felt it was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for our kids. So we jumped on it right away and can’t tell you how excited we are.”

Even though they’re about a 4-5 hour bus ride away from Detroit, the Traverse City teams were natural candidates to participate for a wide variety of factors. 

“When you tie in the fact that Traverse City bills itself as ‘Hockeytown North,’” Inglis said, “and how we’ve embraced the Red Wings and them coming up for both the prospects camp as well as the training camp, it was a natural for us to be able to travel down to Detroit and be on a rink at Comerica Park.

“Word has gotten out. The kids that are returning or are potential returns know it and even though our team can’t start practicing until around Halloween time, the kids know it and the level of excitement has been huge. They’ve jumped on it and realized how special an opportunity it will be for them to play in Comerica Park.”

When the GLI kicks off on Dec. 27, two of the parking lots adjacent to the ballpark will be converted to host interactive games, ice sculpture exhibits, face paintings, musical performances and live entertainment.

Much of the motivation for the grand scale of the festival came from the Ilitch family’s desire to keep the focus of the Winter Classic rooted in Hockeytown. Craig Turnbull, who is the senior vice president of marketing and communications for Olympia Entertainment, has been instrumental in coordinating the scope of the festival and explained how the idea was first generated.

“It was really born from the Ilitches’ interest in making sure that we do all that we can as an organization to bring activity to downtown Detroit,” he said. “So when the league expressed an interest in having a game and breaking records and being out in Ann Arbor, the Ilitches said, ‘We’ll do that as long as we can build a premier event in downtown Detroit.’ ”

According to Turnbull, activity downtown will extend even beyond the ballpark festivities, including a wide range of to-be-determined events at the Fox Theater and Joe Louis Arena that will offer something for every fan. 

“We really want to put our best foot forward,” Turnbull said. “Especially for our fans and friends that come over from Canada, so we think we’re going to have a pretty dynamic event.”

Information on booking ice time during the Hockeytown Winter Festival CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, December 18
Time B/G Team League Team League
8:30 a.m. Boys Livonia Stevenson KLAA South Lyon KLAA
11:30 a.m. GIRLS Northville MMGHHSL Grosse Pointe South MMGHHSL
2:30 p.m. Boys Oxford OAA Lake Orion OAA
5:30 p.m. Boys Cadillac Big North Big Rapids Independent
8:30 p.m. Boys Canton KLAA Plymouth KLAA

Wednesday, Decmber 19
Time B/G Team League Team League
8:30 a.m. Boys Detroit Country Day Independent Utica Eisenhower MAC
11:30 a.m. TBA TBA TBA
2:30 p.m. Boys Brighton KLAA Howell KLAA
5:30 p.m. Boys Cranbrook MiHL Brother Rice MiHL
8:30 p.m. Boys Traverse City West Big North Traverse City Central Big North

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