Tomorrow afternoon the NHL is going to go ahead and make it official: the 2013 Winter Classic will be played between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan’s “Big House.” But that’s not all. There’s also going to be a second press conference from Comerica Park, which will also be involved in the festivities.
The only thing that will actually be at The Big House will be The Big Game (the actual Winter Classic), while Comerica Park will be host to a whole sackful of other games. More on Comerica in a bit.
To gain access to The Big House, the NHL had to clear a few hurdles – they needed the votes of the regents, they needed a liquor license (the University doesn’t serve alcohol at their football games), and they needed to come to financial terms.
The latter was no problem – the NHL is renting the football field for one day for a cool three million dollars, a price the University needed them to get to. The last University of Michigan football game is November 17th, so they needed a good number to make bringing a dormant facility back to life worth it to the school (apparently the NHL also offered to donate to the University’s scholarship fund to make things a touch more appealing too).
As a non-profit, the University apparently has 12 one-day liquor licenses at their disposal, so once all the paperwork for that was sorted out, another problem was taken care of. And, the regents approved everything unanimously, so…hello Winter Classic in Michigan.
Comerica’s role in the whole deal is actually a little bit more involved than all of that. Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy included a quote from Chuck Pleiness of the Macomb Daily detailing the Park’s role in the festivities:
Comerica Park will host an American Hockey League game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, the minor league affiliates of the Wings and Leafs.
It will also be the site of the Great Lakes Invitational, along with two Ontario Hockey League games and numerous high school and youth games.
Michigan and Michigan State will be two of the GLI teams. Three OHL teams — the Plymouth Whalers, Saginaw Spirit and Windsor Spitfires — have already been confirmed.
Comerica could also host the alumni game between the Wings and Leafs.
This event has turned into one big, complicated money-printing machine for the NHL. It’s starting to span more days and make more money than I ever thought possible, and you know what? That’s a good thing.
For fans, it’s a great experience. For players, it’s a great experience. For the local region, it’s a huge financial plus. And of course, the whole deal is nothing but gravy for the League. There’s really nobody involved that loses, and that’s why it does so well.
So there you have it: the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs in the University of Michigan’s Big House.
What do you think – did the NHL do everything right for next year’s event?