Tag Archives: Ann Arbor

New Year, New Deal

This has been a dreary year for hockey lovers. Visiting my family in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, the absence of hockey was noticeable. Some people don’t realize that entire communities rely on the business and traffic from hockey. Michigan is such a state.

The NHL lockout has sent fans back to their origins of college and junior hockey. That movement has been great for the base of hockey. Just like the holidays, the lockout has given fans a glimpse of what really matters…the game. Unfortunately, the NHL and this lockout nonsense reflects poorly on all those associated with such shenanigans. Benefits of the lockout have freed the players to donate their time for more charity games. Grass roots at its finest.

The University of Michigan Men’s ice hockey team has done well taking third place in the Great Lakes Invitational. Represented by colleges from Western Michigan to Michigan Tech, this college hockey expo draws a crowd at Joe Louis Arena in downtown Detroit. Good news for Detroit is that Windsor, Ontario is mere minutes over the bridge and brings NHL fans to town, so now long-term damage is expected. Hockey has survived, yet the identity of the Detroit Metro-Area is securely poised as the most successful sports franchise, the Detroit Red Wings.

Every year I haul Red Wings gear home. This year I hauled Michigan gear home. I even scored a Grand Valley State hoodie for those diehards. While it is great to add some more depth to my athletic collection, the Red Wings are not just shirts and key chains. There was little talk of NHL hockey. Fans in my home state have plenty of other options, because that’s how hockey is lived in the frozen earth that is Michigan.

You haven’t really felt cold unless you’ve stood outside in almost any town in the Wolverine State. Canada has bragging rights to the pain that is the cold, but we’re neighbors and feel their pain. Now living in southern New Jersey, I didn’t realize that 40 degrees is balmy. But when you are standing on ice most of the time, it’s natural to want to skate on it and live your life on it.

Despite the 13 degree temps, my sister and I went out Christmas night and took pictures on the streets of Ann Arbor. Michigan Stadium stood tall and proud ready for 2014 and the Winter Classic featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Standing at the Big House is a monumental feeling. The Winter classic on this grad scale will bring a misty moment for hockey fans.

The Big House Xmas night….the site of the Winter Classic 2014

The New Year should bring a new deal, but let’s start all over again next year.

Hometown, Hockeytown

It’s taken a few days for it all to sink in. The town I grew up in will be the host of the Winter Classic 2013 between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The high school I attended sat kitty-corner from Michigan Stadium. Every Friday afternoon, tailgaters would descend upon Pioneer High School’s  parking lot to set up for the Saturday Michigan games. I remember my uncle Rich sneaking us in at the start of the 4th quarter at his gate where he volunteered for 35 years. He also volunteered with Michigan hockey, and gave me a set of Michigan hockey cards I still have. That was the year Kevin Porter won the Hobey Baker.

Ann Arbor is a hockey town. The University of Michigan Wolverines have been a cornerstone in Big Ten hockey and NCAA hockey for decades. Michigan boasts coach Red Berenson who has produced some of the best talent int he NHL today:  Carl Hagelin, Brendan Morrison, Mike Cammalleri, Mike Komisarek, Mike Knuble, Jack Johnson  and Kevin Porter to name a few.  The Wolverines have nine NCAA men’s ice hockey titles.

Hockey tradition represents Ann Arbor, but also training as the home of the USA Hockey Team Development Program.  NHL participants have included Ryan Kesler, Patrick Kane, Erik Johnson and Cam Fowler.

Not too far down the road is Hockeytown, home to the Detroit Red Wings and the bright spot for the Detroit sports scene. Just across the Detroit River is Windsor, Ontario, home of the two-time Calder Cup champions Windsor Spitfires and MVP Taylor Hall.  The matchup between the Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is fitting not only because of the close proximity, but both are each country’s respective hockey epicenters.  The line coming in and out of Detroit and Windsor after Wings games displays the regions affinity for hockey.

The perfect platform, the picturesque scenery of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan campus, plus the craziness of hockey fans in A2 will create an atmosphere that could cost the Winter Classic in topping it the following year.   I read somewhere that this Classic could break attendance records….it will! Michigan Stadium holds up to 113,000. The Big Chill at the Big House broke an outdoor hockey game record, and so shall the Winter Classic 2013.

 

Big Chill at the Big House

The most exciting event is happening in my hometown, Ann Arbor. Just blocks away from my aunt’s house, crazy collegiate hockey fans will pour into Michigan Stadium for a legendary game.  College football is done, so bring on the hockey!

NCAA hockey has taken over the nation’s largest football arena. The Michigan Wolverines will host the Michigan State Spartans for” The Big Chill at the Big House,” an outdoor hockey game on Dec. 11 before a sold out crowd of 110,00. The two teams met previously on Oct. 6, 2001 at Spartan Stadium for what was called “The Cold War.” In a 3-3 tie, both teams hope to change the past.

Big Chill at the Big House

Michigan brings a veteran team that has been inconsistent this season (9-5-4, 8-3-1 CCHA), but is pushing for a tournament tour. The Wolverines have the most NCAA championships than any other collegiate hockey program. Coach Red Berenson anticipates a strong show for Michigan, expecting 80-85% maize and blue. Berenson, who played some World Championship games for the Canadian National Team as a teenager, coached two outdoor games with the Wolverines.  Michigan and Wisconsin drew more than 55,000 hockey fans to Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., last February for an outdoor game.

Rick Comley, Michigan State’s coach also grew up playing outdoor hockey. Michigan State hasn’t fared as well as their state rival (6-8-3, 3-7-1 CCHA).  Michigan State goalie Drew Palmisano attended Ann Arbor Pioneer High, directly across the street from The Big House. He attended many Wolverine football games, and anticipates a memorable game and experience.  Wonder if ex-MSU goaltender Ryan Miller will use his day off to watch the game?

The Michigan hockey team will sport retro-inspired game jerseys designed by Adidas, to honor the “The Big Chill at the Big House.” The design is similar to Wolverine jerseys worn by the 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48 teams with an image of a wolverine on the front and stripes on the shoulders.

A fireworks display, will introduce the Wolverines as they take the ice, plus more fireworks with a Michigan goal. Post-game fireworks, will be choreographed to the music from the movie “The Big Chill.” Big Chill co-writer, director, and Michigan grad Lawrence Kasdan, will take part in the pre-game ceremonial puck drop.

To help prepare the ice for Saturday’s big game, Michigan Stadium have scheduled hockey games, including high schools, youth leagues and a few alumni groups. A public skate will end the festivities on Dec. 12.

Former MSU forward, Mike Modano will watch, as well as other former Michigan players Kevin Porter, Mike Knuble and the other  Wolverine players now in the NHL.

Catch the game on the Big Ten Network at 3 p.m.EST. Go Blue!