Perhaps the worst-kept secret in the NHL this season has finally been revealed.
For a few glorious days at the end of 2012, "Hockeytown" will merge with the "Center of the Hockey Universe" in what is sure to be an explosion of hockey ecstasy the likes of which has never been seen.
The 2013 version of the Winter Classic is sure to dwarf all those preceding it, not only in the sheer capacity of the crowd expected to be on-hand at Michigan Stadium (115,000-plus), but in the hockey orgy that will precede the game.
OHL, AHL, college hockey and Toronto/Detroit Alumni games are all part of the package hosted by the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
There are plenty of things to get excited about—for Toronto and Detroit fans alike.
However, there are five things Red Wings fans in particular are sure to look forward to.
While this will be the second time the Red Wings have participated in the Winter Classic, this is the first time the Wings will play host.
The 2009 Winter Classic in Chicago at Wrigley Field is still widely considered the standard by which all other Classics will be judged.
Not only was the weather perfect (at least, for playing hockey outside), but the Original Six matchup between the Blackhawks and Wings provided the perfect drama for a "good vs. evil" showdown.
The Wings wore the black hats for that particular game as the hometown 'Hawks fans filled the frozen air with the ubiquitous "Detroit Sucks!" chants heard every time Detroit visits the United Center.
This time, though there are sure to be plenty of Leafs fans in attendance, the game will be on the Red Wings' home turf.
As we've seen throughout this season, good things happen for the Red Wings when playing on Michigan ice.
Of one thing we can be sure: Nicklas Lidstrom will play hockey during the Winter Classic in 2013.
However, the question is: will it be as captain of the 2012-13 Detroit Red Wings or as the most recent acquisition of the Red Wings' alumni team?
While it's silly to suggest that a single game will be enough to convince Lidstrom to sign on to play one more year of hockey, it may provide just enough fuel to the fire he so clearly retains for playing hockey at its highest level.
The Red Wings are once again emerging as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders this season.
If they can make it all the way back to that silver-laden Promised Land in June, the stage will be set for Lidstrom to bow out of the game as five-time champion.
Still, win or lose, Lidstrom may find the urge to play hockey overwhelming—even at 41 years old.
Being able to captain the home team at the Winter Classic may sweeten the deal enough to keep him in Hockeytown one more year.
By all accounts, May 1st, 2006 was the last time Steve Yzerman's skates touched NHL ice.
His body had been telling him for years that he was done playing hockey.
His heart didn't let him stop until it too told him the time had come.
The Tampa Bay GM says he's loving life as an NHL executive, and there's no doubt he's telling the truth.
Still, some time between now and next December, it stands to reason that Mike and Marian Illitch, two people whom serve more as parents and grandparents to Yzerman and his family than former bosses, are bound to make a very personal phone call.
They're likely to sit together around a speaker phone in a closed office and dial Steve Yzerman's cell phone number.
He will of course pick up the call, and the request will be short and simple.
It will almost surely be Marian who speaks up to say, "Stevie, Mike and I really want to see you play in the alumni game."
Yzerman's battered body will almost surely seize up reflexively and tell him "no."
But, as he demonstrated throughout his career, his heart surely won't let him say anything but "yes."
Camera crews are nothing new to the Detroit Red Wings from the numerous sports agencies who've captured every conceivable angle of their many Stanley Cup championship runs to the local Fox Sports crew who regularly follows the players and coaches on and off the ice during the season.
From the two-part series The Season on ESPN back in 2003, to the most recent NHL 36: Nicklas Lidstrom on the NHL Network that followed the Wings captain during a recent road trip, being on camera is part of being a Red Wing.
The comings and goings of the Red Wings, as a team and as individuals, have been well documented for the better part of the last decade.
Still, the style and quality of the HBO 24/7 series is sure to outdo any of the previous attempts to capture the true essence of the team on film.
If the past two installments of the 24/7 series are any indication, the show may indeed be more entertaining than the Winter Classic itself.
To my mind, this matchup, or something like it, should be the only game that ever gets to be called "The Winter Classic."
Seriously, what's more "classic" than an Original Six battle?
I don't care if it's Wings/Leafs, Rangers/Blackhawks, Bruins/Canadiens (how this didn't happen in 2010, I'll never know), the Winter Classic should only involve Original Six teams.
Now, this surely isn't going to happen as the league is looking to sell stars in markets outside of Original Six cities. But, for 2013 at least, hockey fans will be treated to a 90-year-old grudge match between two teams whose histories are as storied as the league itself.
The Red Wings being in the Winter Classic again is a great thing.
That they'll be facing the Toronto Maple Leafs makes it even better.
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