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.