Winter Classic 2014: Previewing NHL's Annual New Year's Day Matchup

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistNovember 27, 2013

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 07:  A look at the 2014 NHL Winter Classic jersey's displayed at the Press Announcement on April 7, 2013 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

There is just over a month until the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, and the excitement surrounding the marquee New Year’s Day matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium has hockey fans genuinely excited.

Even if you don’t enjoy the sport, the idea of a professional hockey game being held inside a sold-out college football stadium that can pack in more than 100,000 fans will have everyone checking out the action during the holiday break.

Here is all the vital viewing information fans need to witness the outdoor festivities and a full preview of the battle between Original Six powerhouses.

Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.

When: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: NBC and CBC

Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra

Full Winter Classic Preview and Prediction

As the first of six outdoor games this season (four in the NHL Stadium Series and one Heritage Classic), the old-school battle between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings is the perfect way to usher in the new year and set the tone for the subsequent events.

This matchup was originally scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, but the lockout last season forced the league to cancel the event. Instead of punishing the fans for the NHL’s futility, commissioner Gary Bettman and his crew made the right choice and rescheduled the same teams and venue.

A record number of fans are expected at this year’s game, per CBC Sports, and the atmosphere will be unlike anything the NHL has ever witnessed. Not only will the league looking to set the attendance record, but the fact that this will also be the first Winter Classic held in a college football stadium adds even more intrigue to the battle.

As if the matchup between Toronto and Detroit needed anymore storylines.

The Red Wings and Maple Leafs are two of the Original Six teams in the NHL, and the rivalry dates all the way back to the first meeting in 1927. Detroit has the better all-time regular-season record in head-to-head matchups (275-273-93-3), but Toronto has won 12 of the 23 postseason series between the franchises (117 games).

Add in the fact that these organizations are in close proximity geographically, and the rivalry has only gotten more intense with the changes made this offseason. The NHL underwent a major realignment overhaul, and when the dust settled, the Red Wings had moved to the Eastern Conference where they are now in the Atlantic Division with the Maple Leafs.

The Original Six foes are now division rivals.

This matchup between an American team and a Canadian squad also makes it the first international Winter Classic to date. The game is typically a battle between two franchises from the United States (the Heritage Classic has only featured Canadian teams), but the infusion of both nations should result in even more excitement around the event.

With the chippy nature of these two new division rivals, the long history between the franchises and the raucous environment of the "Big House," this year’s Winter Classic should go down as one of the most memorable to date.

Predicted Winner: Detroit

All stats and information via NHL.com.