By Michael Caples and Alyssa Girardi –
DETROIT – Everything the state of Michigan was promised will return later this year.
After the NHL lockout prevented Hockeytown from a historic few weeks of outdoor hockey at Comerica Park and Michigan Stadium, the league confirmed today that all the activities will take place next season.
The 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will feature the Detroit Red Wings taking on Original 6 rival and future division opponent Toronto at the Big House in Ann Arbor. The opening face-off for what is expected to be a record-breaking hockey game is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Jan. 1, 2014.
“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.”
During the press conference, the league also confirmed that HBO will follow both teams for their wildly-popular “24/7” TV series, leading up to the Winter Classic.
Michigan coach Red Berenson said during his press conference speech that he expects a record crowd that will top the Big Chill at the Big House.
“I expect that you will break that record,” Berenson said, “and fans will come from far and wide.”
Red Wings TV analyst and former player Mickey Redmond had this to say on the upcoming festivities surrounding Hockeytown:
‘Well from my old days starting in Montreal then coming to Detroit and playing against the Leafs which is close to my hometown … you’ve heard me on Fox Sports talk about any time you get two Original 6’s in the building there’s an electricity in the air — it’s hard to recreate anywhere. For us to be involved I think secondarily as you will, as an alumni, to have four teams put together like that in conjunction with the big game the next day is really great. You turn the clock back. I think for a lot of us, especially in my era, we played more outdoors than we did indoors. For every one time we played under a roof we probably played 50 times out under the sky. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to sit back, turn the clock back and take it all in and hopefully we’ll be able to do that.
When you look at the names and the greats and the history of two…the nice thing about the Original Six is there’s only six of them; they don’t make them anymore. What a great look back into the history of the organizations that we’ll be able to do. For the fans, that will be their treat to have different eras represented out there and it’s a great testament to the support both these organizations have had over the many many years that they’ve been alive.”
And comments from Kris Draper:
Especially for myself, obviously I’m from Toronto, I grew up in Toronto, grew up a Leafs fan and then to be able to play 18 years for the Detroit Red Wings. Once I heard last year the rumblings of the Winter Classic was going to be Detroit-Toronto I got real excited about it. I can tell you Kenny did get a lot of phone calls from people who did want to be a part of this, ex-players did want to be a part of this. We know that it’s just going to be a first-class event. Any time Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch are involved in something like this, you know it’s going to be absolutely first-class, and that’s why players want to be a part of it. The Winter Classic I was fortunate to be a part of, the one at Wrigley Field in Chicago. To me, it’s one of the top five career highlights that I’ve had. I had so much fun. It was amazing to be able to play at Wrigley Field, there you are. You’re on the rink, you’re looking around, you see the ivory and you realize it’s Detroit-Chicago and how special that is. And now, obviously coming in as an alumni and to be able to be a part of it is something that I know guys are excited about. Everybody that I’ve talked to — Joey, you’ve got Mickey here, Kirk Maltby, Chris Osgood, you name it those guys I’ve talked to, Shanny and Luc Robitaille, those guys are excited about it. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be special and I know Kenny’s going to work hard on Stevie — we’re all going to kinda put the full-court press on him and it would be great if Nick and Tomas Holmstrom now that they’ve retired that they can be a part of this game as well.It’s going to be fun and I think that’s one thing, the Winter Classic has been outstanding but it seems like the alumni game has kind of picked up steam here over the last couple of years. Obviously the alumni want to be involved in it. Mathieu Schneider talked about being involved in something like that so we’re excited to be able to do it, we’re excited to be able to do it down here, too. I think that’s the special thing is being right downtown Detroit playing in Comerica Park. I was there for opening day on Friday — obviously an unbelievable atmosphere. For us to be able to go out there and then all the events that are going to be there as well. I coach my son’s team, Little Ceasars, and they’re going to have an opportunity to play there. They’re talking about the OHL games that are going to be there. The GLI is going to be played down there. Grand Rapids is going to play … so it’s just going to be, usually you just think of the Winter Classic. It’s a game, and an unreal game and what Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch have done downtown is they’ve turned this into an event and that’s something that’s going to be special. If you’re going down there for the one game on the 31st, there’s stuff going on all week.It’s going to be special, it’s going to be a great time around the city of Detroit and we’re excited to be a part of it.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland had this to say during the press conference:
This is a very exciting day for our franchise and our organization to be able to host the Winter Classic and have over 100,000 people at The Big House in Michigan and over the prior two weeks to have, we hope, over 250,000 people in Detroit watching college games, minor games, junior games, high school hockey games. It’s going to be an exciting two weeks leading up to the alumni game and the Winter Classic. Tom had said that through the years, Toronto’s won 276 games and we’ve won 275, but I wanna tell Tom we have 646 points, Toronto’s got 645 points, so it’s been an incredible history and tradition throughout the National Hockey League. Toronto’s won obviously 14 Stanley Cups, we’ve won 11 Stanley Cups so it’s two proud historical franchises that are going to face off in the Winter Classic. I know Tom Wilson’s going to be up here in a minute. Tom’s got tremendous plans for a couple of weeks of an incredible celebration of hockey leading up to the games. We’re excited about the jerseys. We worked hard with everybody involved, our ownership and our organization to develop a jersey that we think respects the history and the tradition of the Detroit Red Wings and I’m sure when people see it they’re going to fall in love with the jersey. The league and everybody did an incredible job in developing the jerseys. The alumni game, we’re excited for the alumni game. … Most of the Russian Five were committed for 2013, we hope to have them back. We’re going to go to work to get Stevie Yzerman in a jersey, put some pressure on Nick Lidstrom to get Nick Lidstrom back for one more time. Hopefully the alumni game is going to be an incredible day leading up to the Winter Classic. And thank you to Michigan for hosting this game, it’s going to be an incredible two weeks finished off by a game at The Big House.
Followed by Olympia Entertainment president and CEO Tom Wilson:
Very seldom do we take the time to look back at how blessed we’ve been as a community in terms of major sporting events. If you look back over the last decade, we’ve been fortunate enough to host a Super Bowl, to host a Major League baseball All-Star Game, a Final Four, a Frozen Four, a Ryder Cup, three trips to the Stanley Cup finals, two trips to the NBA Finals, two trips to the World Series and counting. We have been truly blessed and we just hope this is the icing — no pun intended — on the cake. When people ask me, “Where are you in terms of economic impact?” all of these events make a serious impact, a positive impact on our community, both in the image and of course our quality of life, the sheer amount of spending that goes on to impact our entire area … In Pittsburgh a couple of years ago, they hosted the Winter Classic and an alumni game, maybe 80,000 people and you heard the numbers today. In Pittsburgh they felt it was $36 million of impact to that city. That’s an amazing figure. If you can image 80,000 people doing that and we have 100,000 people coming to Ann Arbor and a quarter of a million people coming to downtown Detroit and all of our friends coming over from Canada to stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, this is going to be a tremendously impactful positive experience for all of us. We’re honored to be a part of this. As Kenny said, this is going to be a celebration of hockey to host this festival downtown. Every level of hockey will be played from high school to sled hockey to junior hockey, and the alumni game Kenny talked about is actually going to be the alumni games. Ninety players called to be a part of the 20-person roster, so we tried to figure out how do we make this work from his standpoint, from our standpoint … so it’s going to be a double-header of alumni players that will be taking part in that game. If you’re a hockey fan of any age, it’s going to be an incredibly memorable experience. When you couple that with the Great Lakes Invitational that plays over two days and the double-header of OHL games, the Marlies and the Griffins playing each other in an AHL game and all the other possibilities, public skates so everybody can take part of this, it’s truly going to be an amazing couple of weeks. And we’ll have entertainment events down here, concerts, family events at the Joe and the Fox so everybody, if you’re a hockey fan you’re going to love it, if you just want to be part of history it’s going to be an amazing experience. It may be cold outside but it’s gonna be a hot time in Hockeytown.