University of Michigan to Host 2014 NHL Winter Classic

By Community | April 8, 2013

The National Hockey League has confirmed the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic will be played at 1 p.m. ET on New Year’s Day at The Big House on the campus of University of Michigan between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs.

In addition, Bettman said Comerica Park in downtown Detroit will be converted into a rink for the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival. 

The NHL anticipates setting a world record for attendance at a hockey game as upwards of 110,000 people are expected to pack The Big House on the campus of the University of Michigan for the Winter Classic game. An estimated 250,000 are expected to descend on downtown Detroit for the Hockeytown Winter Festival. 

“We’ve been excited about going to The Big House, and we’re glad that the plans are falling into place to do everything we originally planned to do and more,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The Red Wings and Maple Leafs were originally scheduled to play at The Big House on Jan. 1, 2013, but the event was cancelled because of the lockout. 

The same plans are in place for the 2014 event, with the possibility of the NHL considering doing more with the added time to plan. 

“In terms of the ancillary events, I think we have the ability to do more and do some better planning,” Commissioner Bettman said. “We want to make sure that this event is as strong and as solid and as big as it can be. Everything we’re doing is in pursuit of that.” 

The marquee event before the actual Winter Classic game will be the 2014 Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs Alumni Showdown on New Year’s Eve. 

Nearly 100 alumni from both teams have asked to participate, requiring the NHL, the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs to plan for two alumni games at Comerica Park on New Year’s Eve. 

The NHL first showcased the Winter Classic alumni game in 2011 with Mario Lemieux and thePittsburgh Penguins. 

“People like to have a reason to come together and celebrate,” Leafs alumni Darryl Sittler told NHL.com. “The game is an event, but there is so many other things surrounding it. You talk about the alumni and I really look forward to getting back on the ice with Lanny [MacDonald] and Tiger [Williams]. In Detroit, they’ve had huge success over the last number of years and they’re going to have a little bit younger of an alumni team than us. But the fact that they’re having two games and every player who is an alumni of these two teams gets a chance to be a part of it, that tells you a lot about it.” 

The Winter Festival will also feature games of all levels of hockey (American Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, NCAA, high school and youth) being played on the temporary rink built atop the infield at Comerica Park from mid-December into the new year. 

“Usually you just think of the Winter Classic as a game and an unreal game, but what Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch have done downtown is they have turned this into an event,” Red Wings alum Kris Drapersaid. “It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a great time around the city of Detroit.”