There are 41 miles between the Big House, Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, and Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers downtown in the state's largest city. Fans, players and media alike will get used to that trek at New Year's 2013, as the NHL announced Thursday morning that Winter Classic festivities will be held at two separate sites for the first time in the history of the event.
The 2013 Winter Classic will be held at the Big House in Ann Arbor on Tuesday, January 1 between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. It's the largest stadium in North America and it'll certainly be the largest outdoor game in NHL history when it comes down to the sheer numbers.
But that's the only event that'll be held outside of Detroit. The rest of the Winter Classic festivities will be located in Detroit, primarily at Comerica Park, and the official NHL hotels will be located downtown. Here's a full (as of now) list of games scheduled to be played at the ballpark during Winter Classic week:
- An Alumni Game between Leafs and Wings alumni.
- An AHL game between the Toronto Marlies and Grand Rapids Griffins. This'll be the second year an AHL game is played as part of the Winter Classic, but it's the first in which the two affiliates of each NHL participant will face off against each other.
- Two Ontario Hockey League games: London Knights will face the Plymouth Whalers and the Windsor Spitfires will face the Saginaw Spirit. Both games feature Ontario teams and Michigan teams, and it's the first year junior hockey will play a part in the Winter Classic.
- The Great Lakes Invitational, a four-team NCAA Div. 1 mens hockey tournament typically held at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, will be played at Comerica Park.
Teams from outside of Michigan typically take part in the event, but it'll be a different story this time around as Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan will be the four participants. While a Michigan team has won the event each of the last six years, it hasn't been an all-intrastate affair since 1998.
That's all we know for now, but more events will almost certainly be announced in the coming months. This really will be the biggest Winter Classic we've seen to date.