The National Hockey League has formally announced one of its most popular events, the Winter Classic, for 2014. It’ll be bringing the festivities to Hockeytown, with the Detroit Red Wings facing off against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Big House on the University of Michigan campus.
The NHL hopes to set a world record for attendance at the event, which could theoretically draw upwards of 110,000 people.
Along with the Winter Classic, which will take place on New Year’s Day at 1 pm EST, the SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival will take place with events at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. An estimated 250,000 people are expected to participate in events there, so this is a big draw for the league.
“We’ve been excited about going to The Big House, and we’re glad that the plans are falling into place to do everything we originally planned to do and more,” NHL commissioner and part-time Dracula impersonator Gary Bettman said.
This puts the plan that was initially in place for this year’s Winter Classic back in play and actually gives the league more time in which to work out some special events.
“In terms of the ancillary events, I think we have the ability to do more and do some better planning,” Bettman said. “We want to make sure that this event is as strong and as solid and as big as it can be. Everything we’re doing is in pursuit of that.”
The Winter Festival part of the event will include all levels of hockey, from the AHL and OHL to some local high school hockey teams, playing in various games on the temporary rink located above the infield at Comerica. These games will commence in mid-December and play forward right up to the Winter Classic itself.
“Usually you just think of the Winter Classic as a game and an unreal game, but what Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch have done downtown is they have turned this into an event,” Red Wings alumni Kris Draper said. “It’s going to be special. It’s going to be a great time around the city of Detroit.”
The league also debuted retro sweaters for the event, with Detroit’s uniforms inspired by the 1920s Detroit Cougars and Toronto’s coming from a 1930s edition of the club. Of course, the sweater designs have been in the wind for a long time now.
The previous Winter Classic from 2012 featured the Philadelphia Flyers facing off against the New York Rangers. That event at Citizens Bank Park in Philly had 46,967 people in attendance.