Michigan and Michigan State played an outdoor hockey game in front of 104,000 fans at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11, 2010. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the 115,000 tickets available for the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at The Big House won’t be enough to satisfy the demand.
But I disagree on the game being played at the home of Michigan Wolverines football in the first place. Detroit is Hockeytown. Ann Arbor is not Detroit.
Detroit is setting up “Hockeytown Winter Festival” at Comerica Park for the last two weeks of December. The event will host youth and high school hockey games, similar to the Indians’ Snow Days. Also, an AHL game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Toronto Marlies, along with the Great Lakes Invitational, a college tournament with Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan.
The Winter Festival will culminate with the NHL Alumni Showdown, a battle between legends from both the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, on Dec. 31.
But then the actual Winter Classic game will be played somewhere else. It will be played in a different city.
Would it have made any sense for the Indians to set up Snow Days, have all of those high school hockey games on that rink, and then play the Frozen Diamond Faceoff in Akron? No. So why is the NHL basically doing the same thing?
I understand the seating capacity, I really do. Comerica Park’s capacity for Tigers games is 41,782. That’s not quite 115,000.
The NHL did get it right with the matchup. Detroit is the perfect host city. Why it took until the sixth year of the game to play it in Hockeytown is beyond me. The first one should have been played there. This is also the first time a Canadian team is participating in the Winter Classic. Red Wings-Maple Leafs is a hockey purist’s dream matchup.
The league needs to stop worrying about attendance records and start thinking about the history behind the game. Play it in Detroit, not a college town.