Detroit Red Wings in Talks with NHL to Host Winter Classic

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIDecember 1, 2011

The 2010 Big Chill in Ann Arbor
The 2010 Big Chill in Ann Arbor

Just a month before the 2012 Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, news has come out from a local website that the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings organization are in talks for either the 2013 or 2014 NHL Winter Classic to be held in Detroit.

It's not unusual for rumors about the next classic to start swirling just before the current year's classic takes place, and in past years those rumors have proven to be right.

It's likely that Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch would like to hold the game in Comerica Park. The baseball field is the home of the Detroit Tigers, who Ilitch also owns.

Ilitch would want the game held in Comerica for obvious reasons, but he could be swayed based on the fact that The Big House in Ann Arbor can seat over 110,000 people.

While those numbers are nice, and The Big House did just set a record for the number of people in a NCAA sporting event during The Big Chill, an outdoor game between MSU and the University of Michigan, there is more to take into consideration.

The Big Chill was selling tickets for as low as $15 a seat. The Winter Classic is the NHL's premier regular-season event. Cheap seats for the Winter Classic can go as much as $200, and in a state with an economy in sore shape, it's not unrealistic to suggest that selling out may be difficult depending on their opponent.

Speaking of Detroit's opponent, a lot will depend on where they land after the NHL finishes conference realignment. The NHL board of governors will meet in about a week to discuss new plans for realignment, and they may possibly make a vote on the realignment plan in those meetings.

Comerica Park in Detroit
Comerica Park in Detroit

If Detroit stays in the Western Conference, a rematch of the 2009 Winter Classic isn't impossible, but it may be unlikely, as the NHL might not want to have both teams playing each other again, and may look to Chicago for a future Winter Classic of their own.

Because of this fact you have to explore the possibility of Detroit facing off against some other team in the West. The three leading candidates would likely be the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues and the Colorado Avalanche.

However, if Detroit ends up moving to the Eastern Conference because of the realignment, they will be open to an array of different possibilities. Facing off against Philadelphia or New York is unlikely because they both play in this year's classic.

A Classic against Boston is certainly a possibility, as the Red Wings and Bruins just recently played each other in the first-ever Thanksgiving Showdown. An unlikely, but interesting possibility would be to play the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose general manager is Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman.

A likely opponent could be the Pittsburgh Penguins, as the NHL never gets tired of promoting Sidney Crosby, and seeing the league's top two players in Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk play against each other outdoors would certainly be a hell of a sight.

The best option for a game versus an Eastern Conference team would require the NHL to get over its fear of putting Canadian teams in the Winter Classic.

As one of the biggest rivalries in NHL history, a Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings would make for an outstanding atmosphere, and would likely be very successful in the U.S. regardless of a Canadian team's participation.

As things currently stand, a lot will depend on where Detroit lands in conference realignment, but if the NHL were to pull the trigger on a Detroit vs. Toronto Winter Classic, it would be the biggest Winter Classic to date.

Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. For more coverage, follow him on Twitter by clicking the link below.