The 2013 NHL Winter Classic, which was scheduled to feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, was wiped out by the league's lockout. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star reports the teams are going to get another chance in 2014.
But the Star has learned that the NHL is closing in on final talks with officials at the University of Michigan for use of its football stadium, and with the Detroit Tigers for use of Comerica Park in what would be a weeklong festival of hockey capped of by the NHL game.
"My guess is we will officially announce plans in early spring," a source told the Star.
"The Big House" is capable of holding over 109,000 fans, which would easily set the attendance record for the annual event. The previous mark was held by Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo after more than 71,000 fans showed up for the first Winter Classic in 2009.
The Red Wings served as the visitors for the 2009 spectacle at Wrigley Field in Chicago, winning that game 6-4 over the Blackhawks. It would be the first appearance for the Maple Leafs, or any Canadian team for that matter, in the event.
Since the game has become a major draw for the NHL, which struggles to keep pace with the other major sports in the United States, it's no surprise plans are already being prepared for next season. And it's only fair that Detroit gets its chance after the 2013 game got cancelled.
Its proximity to Canada will also ensure that a massive legion of Toronto fans, who have remained loyal to the team despite not making the playoffs since prior to the previous lockout (a sad statement for both the Leafs and the league), make the journey to Michigan Stadium.
The Toronto Star report makes it seem like there are still a few details to work out before it becomes official. However, McGran sounds confident a deal will get done, giving the Leafs and Red Wings a chance to get back in the Winter Classic spotlight.
Luckily, there won't be a lockout getting in the way this time around.
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