Let’s get this out of the way first: it was tremendously disappointing that the Winter Classic was cancelled this season due to the NHL Lockout. Or insert your own phrase in place of “tremendously disappointing.”
But the NHL season was salvaged, the Red Wings are likely headed to the playoffs for the 22nd straight season (though it’s not definite yet).
But if the Wings don’t make the playoffs, and if hockey fans are still a little sore about the “play” stoppage (work stoppage just doesn’t seem appropriate here), they have something to look forward to. Next year.
Next year the season will start on time, there will be a full schedule, and the popular Winter Classic will return. Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement last week in Detroit – the 2014 NHL Winter Classic will pit the Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs in a matchup outside on the ice at The Big House – Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
Since its inception in 2008, the NHL Winter Classic has become a wildly popular sports spectacle, bringing excitement and attention to the host city/market, and providing thrilling hockey moments. The game in 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago between the Blackhawks and Red Wings drew the highest ratings for a hockey game in more than three decades.
With the game being played (usually) on January 1, it has become an iconic event. As sportswriter Dan Shaughnessy wrote in Sports Illustrated: “Hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving.”
Since Michigan Stadium is the largest venue (in terms of seating capacity) in the U.S., the 2014 game is expected to attract the largest crowd to ever watch an ice hockey game. It might be the largest assembled crowd of spectators in one spot for any sporting event.
The game will once again match two of the Original Six, with Toronto – one of the most successful teams in league history – making their first appearance in the Winter Classic. Since Toronto is just a few hundred miles away from Ann Arbor, and accessible via the bridge into Detroit, there will probably be thousands of Maple Leafs fans making the trek.
Once again both teams will wear special, limited edition jerseys for the contest. When the Wings played in the Classic in 2009, they wore jerseys of the Detroit Cougars from 1927. This time, they will wear a new design somewhat modeled after the Cougars, but also using an early rendition of the famed “winged wheel.”
Regardless of our feelings about the cancellation of the 2013 Classic, the 2014 game will be an exciting event that will turn the hockey spotlight on Michigan for an event that the entire sports world notices. Tickets can be purchased at NHL.com.
To get the jersey that the Red Wings will be wearing in the ’14 NHL Winter Classic, visit Detroit Athletic Company online.