(NEW YORK, NY) – The Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on the University of Michigan campus in the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® on Tuesday, Jan. 1, the National Hockey League announced today. Nicknamed “The Big House,” the stadium is the largest in North America. It is anticipated that the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® could set an all-time world attendance record for a hockey game. The game will be broadcast live on NBC in the U.S. and on CBC and RDS in Canada.
“The Red Wings’ tradition of excellence, Detroit’s passion for hockey and the glorious history of the Maple Leafs create a Winter Classic scenario for the ages,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “The meeting of these two ‘Original Six’ rivals, at this iconic venue, will lift this Winter Classic to incomparable heights. The demand to be there will be so great that this event could only be held at ‘The Big House.'”
In concert with the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®, beginning in mid-December Comerica Park in downtown Detroit will be home to a celebration of hockey titled the Hockeytown Winter Festival™. The main attraction of the festival will be an ice rink built on the Comerica Park field where a special game between notable Red Wings and Maple Leafs alumni – the NHL Alumni Showdown – will be played.
The outdoor rink at Comerica Park will feature games between teams representing every level of hockey and opportunities for open skating for the public. Over a quarter of a million fans are expected to watch youth games, high school hockey games, sled hockey games, AHL games, OHL games and more. The Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Red Wings, will play the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs, on the Comerica Park rink. For the first time in its history, the Great Lakes Invitational will be played outdoors as Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan University will be part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival. Also, the ballpark will host two OHL matchups: the Windsor Spitfires vs. Saginaw Spirit and the Plymouth Whalers vs. London Knights.
“Mike and Marian Ilitch are deeply committed to their beloved Detroit. That commitment has never wavered,” Commissioner Bettman added. “The Hockeytown Winter Festival is just the latest example of their passion for their city and for hockey.”
The 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® continues the tradition the NHL® has established of hosting a regular-season game outdoors at the onset of the new year to celebrate the origin and traditions of hockey. This season in Philadelphia, both the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® between the Flyers and New York Rangers and the alumni game two days prior attracted sellout crowds. More than 100,000 fans visited Spectator Plaza, the official outdoor hockey festival adjacent to the ballpark.
Two members of the NHL’s “Original Six®,” the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are longtime rivals, having first played against each other on Jan. 4, 1927 as the Toronto St. Patricks defeated the Detroit Cougars 2-1 in a game near Detroit. Just over a month later, the Toronto team was re-named the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs captured a 4-3 victory on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 in the only regular-season meeting of the teams this season, marking the 644th regular-season contest between the franchises. As of today, each is the second most-common regular-season opponent for the other. The Maple Leafs have faced only the Montreal Canadiens more often; the Red Wings only the Chicago Blackhawks.
Not only is the Detroit-Toronto hockey rivalry a storied one, it is a competitive one. All-time during the regular season, Detroit (275-273-93-3) has captured 646 points against Toronto, holding an advantage by the slimmest of margins over Toronto’s 645 versus Detroit (276-275-93-0).
More than just a regular-season phenomenon, the rivalry remains as profound and closely contested in the Stanley Cup® Playoffs. The 117 playoff games between the franchises is the second most in NHL history (Boston vs. Montreal=170). The Red Wings have won 59 of those games to the Maple Leafs’ 58, outscoring Toronto 321-311. However, the Maple Leafs hold the edge in terms of playoff series victories, 12-11.
The 2011-12 versions of the teams feature some of the top talent in the NHL. The Red Wings are led by captain Nicklas Lidstrom, the seven-time and defending Norris Trophy winner who also is an 11-time NHL All-Star. Lidstrom, along with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Jimmy Howard and more, have the Red Wings fighting for top spot in the Western Conference once again.
“We are honored to host the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® and bring the Hockeytown Winter Festival to our fans,” said Red Wings Owner Michael Ilitch. “This is one of the greatest sports towns ever and to be able to host this celebration of the sport of hockey will provide a tremendous positive economic impact to our community. We are proud to show the world why we love Hockeytown!”
The Maple Leafs were well represented at the recent 2012 NHL All-Star weekend with three players in Ottawa. Captain Dion Phaneuf and the high-scoring tandem of Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel were recognized for their outstanding seasons.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs and our fans are extremely thrilled to be a part of the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic,” said Brian Burke, Maple Leafs President and General Manager. “The rich hockey heritage of these two Original Six hockey clubs will make for an extremely memorable event played in front of the NHL’s largest crowd ever. The atmosphere and pageantry will be an outstanding spectacle for our sport.”
“For the players on the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings, having this opportunity to play hockey outdoors at ‘The Big House’ in front of a passionate and potentially record-setting crowd will be a unique experience that they will always remember,” said NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr. “The Leafs and Red Wings Players are looking forward to what should be a great day for everyone involved.”
Michigan Stadium re-claimed the title of the largest stadium in the U.S. after the completion of seating renovations in 2010 increased its official capacity to 109,901. The historic home of Wolverine football easily becomes the largest venue to host the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic®.
“We are excited to provide the NHL with use of our beautiful Michigan Stadium for the NHL Winter Classic,” said Dave Brandon, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Athletics. “This will be a way for hockey fans around the globe to experience Michigan Stadium and the University of Michigan. This event will have a significant positive economic impact on the Ann Arbor community and the State of Michigan.”
The five previous editions of the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® comprise five of the top six most watched regular-season NHL games in the U.S. in the past 37 years. The 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® in Pittsburgh on NBC Sports aired in primetime and was the most-watched NHL regular season game in the U.S. in 36 years with an average of 4.5 million viewers. The event also drew the largest audience on CBC for any of the U.S.-based outdoor NHL games.
“It’s more than appropriate that the NHL’s biggest regular-season event is now moving to North America’s biggest venue,” said Jon Miller, president programming, NBC Sports & NBC Sports Network. “If any venue can grow the spectacle of the NHL Winter Classic, it’s The Big House. We continue to be extraordinarily proud of our contribution in creating and growing this tremendous event with our partners at the NHL.”
“Canadians have come to expect the best hockey coverage from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and we’re proud to once again be the host broadcaster of the NHL Winter Classic in 2013, when the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings,” said Jeffrey Orridge, Executive Director, CBC Sports Properties. “This game has quickly become appointment viewing for hockey fans across country and even more so this season with an Original Six matchup featuring one of Canada’s most storied franchises, live from Michigan Stadium. We have no doubt that this will be one of the most anticipated and exciting NHL Winter Classic games yet.”
Sirius XM Satellite Radio will provide radio coverage. NHL.com will provide extensive digital video coverage and NHL Network™ will once again provide hours of coverage live from Hockeytown in the days leading up to and after the game.
The Bridgestone brand, the Official Tire of the NHL® and the NHLPA, returns for the fifth consecutive year as title sponsor of the event.
“The Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic has become a New Year’s Day tradition and truly a Performance Moment in the sports world — it is the same Passion for Performance that the Bridgestone brand instills in its products every day,” said Phil Pacsi, Vice President, Customer Marketing & Training, U.S. & Canada Consumer Tire Sales, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, (BATO). “Watching two of the NHL’s most storied rivals square off at the 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® at the Big House is an event not to be missed, and will be talked about for years to come. We are excited and proud to be part of this New Year’s tradition.”
The first-ever NHL regular-season game contested outdoors was played in 2003 when the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium. Since 2008, the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic® has been contested every year on or just after New Year’s Day. The first contest featured the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. In 2009, the Blackhawks hosted the Red Wings at Wrigley Field. In 2010, the Boston Bruins hosted the Flyers at Fenway Park. In 2011, the Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field. In 2012, the Flyers hosted the Rangers at Citizens Bank Park. In February 2011, the Calgary Flames hosted the Canadiens in the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ at McMahon Stadium.