The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will be playing in the 2013 Winter Classic at the University of Michigan's Big House. Bob McKenzie confirmed as much on TSN's Insider Trading last night in the intermission of the Montreal-Boston game. Since Pierre Gauthier hit the panic button mid-game I expect the announcement to be overshadowed. Here are Bob's quotes:
I can in fact confirm those reports that the NHL's desire is that the Leafs play the Wings at the Big House. It'll be configured for 115k. It's not finalized yet, but by the end of the month there's expected to be a formal announcement. The NHL is well down the road.
To say this is a shock would be a stretch as the rumours have been rampant for a while. I know I was cautious but skeptical because so far the NHL hasn't really given any indication that they wanted Canadian teams to play in the NBC version of an outdoor game but let's not forget that Leafs Nation is legion. The great news: the Big House, in addition to being a really fun name for a stadium, will be configured so that there will be 115,000 seats.
This Winter Classic will be truly amazing.
KICKING OFF A PARTY
I hate to do this but...as per Rosie DiManno (and Brian Burke confirms that the Leafs are pushing hard to host it presumably playing one the road might be a prerequisite), the Leafs are shooting for the moon in the coming years:
Alas, the game won't be in Toronto because there's no suitable outdoor venue, Rogers Centre proving yet again that it's good for absolutely nothing, including baseball. Instead, the shivery mano-a-mano will be staged at Michigan Stadium, the Big House in Ann Arbor, home of University of Michigan, with a seating capacity of 115,000 and site of an outdoor NCAA game in December, 2010.
The Leafs have formally asked for all three marquee events on the hockey calendar next year: Winter Classic, all-star game and NHL draft. Winter Classic in 12 months' time would be first on the agenda, and best odds, even with the Leafs as road invitees.
Be still my heart! Jeff Arnold of Puck Daddy has some great details on the event which notes that the game may be played at Comerica Park but it seems like Option A is the Big House as it should be.
Brian Burke, in answering questions on Twitter, said that he would not allow the Maple Leafs to take part in a 24/7-type series unless the league mandated it. Given the way that fans have enjoyed the two series to date (PIT v WSH, NYR v. PHI) they would be dumb to not tell the Maple Leafs that it is a mandatory part of participation in the Winter Classic. Now, the real question is whether HBO will want to do a 24/7 starring a Canadian team. I think that the Leafs have enough high profile American ties in Brian Burke, Ron Wilson, Mike Komisarek, and Phil Kessel to get it done.
If they do, who will be the breakout star? If he's still a Maple Leaf, it'll be Mikhail Grabovski. Phil Kessel will be hiding from the camera, Nikolai Kulemin will be making goldfish faces, and Dion Phaneuf will be glaring. But Grabovski? He'll be dropping gems like this one to Mirtle:
Grabovski said the only advice he gives Kulemin is outside of hockey. "But he don't listen to me." What advice is it? "Russian advice."
Or this other gem:
"Like he told me, he did that for me because [Kaleta] hit me," Grabovski said. "I'm happy for that because Russians stay with Russians."
The guy is a lunatic - and that's without mentioning the fact that after some chump in Vancouver attacked him in the Olympics that he basically broke him into a dozen pieces - just take a look at this quote after Zdeno Chara delivered two hits to his head:
"I feel bruise in my eyes," Grabovski told AM640 after the game. "But like I tell it before, it give me more motivation to play harder."
Of course, then he went out and scored this goal:
The Maple Leafs and Red Wings' rivalry is one that sadly has been mostly killed outside of their rare meetings since the Leafs moved back to the Eastern Conference. You would think that with the two teams so close geographically that there would have been some thought to keeping the matchup alive despite being in different conferences. While the games have been less frequent there haven't lost any of the buzz.
At least the rivalry went out with a bang:
That was the team that the late Pat Burns always said was his favourite team. Check out the 92-93 rosters that both clubs could draw from:
|1992-1993 Detroit Red Wings||1992-1993 Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Shawn Burr||Glenn Anderson|
|Jimmy Carson||Dave Andreychuk|
|Tim Cheveldae||Ken Baumgartner|
|Steve Chiasson||Drake Berehowsky|
|Dino Ciccarelli||Bill Berg|
|Paul Coffey||Nikolai Borschevsky|
|Jim Cummins||Wendel Clark|
|Bobby Dollas||John Cullen|
|Dallas Drake||Mike Eastwood|
|Sergei Fedorov||Dave Ellett|
|Gerard Gallant||Mike Foligno|
|Jim Hiller||Grant Fuhr|
|Mark Howe||Todd Gill|
|Sheldon Kennedy||Doug Gilmour|
|Steve Konroyd||Mike Krushelnyski|
|Vladimir Konstantinov||Guy Larose|
|Vyacheslav Kozlov||Sylvain Lefebvre|
|Gord Kruppke||Jamie Macoun|
|Martin Lapointe||Kent Manderville|
|Nicklas Lidstrom||Bob McGill|
|Brad McCrimmon||Dave McLlwain|
|John Ogrodnick||Ken McRae|
|Keith Primeau||Dmitri Mironov|
|Bob Probert||Mark Osborne|
|Yves Racine||Rob Pearson|
|Vincent Riendeau||Felix Potvin|
|Ray Sheppard||Daren Puppa|
|Mike Sillinger||Bob Rouse|
|Chris Tancill||Joe Sacco|
|Dennis Vial||Darryl Shannon|
|Jason York||Dave Tomlinson|
|Paul Ysebaert||Rick Wamsley|
|Steve Yzerman||Peter Zezel|
Any way you slice it, this is going to be a must attend event for Leafs fans. I cannot wait.