The Detroit Red Wings will be part of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic and it appears fans in Ann Arbor and Detroit will be offered a fair share of outdoor hockey activity for two weeks leading up to and including the game itself.
As has been speculated, the Red Wings will square off with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on January 1, 2013, a source close to the talks confirmed Wednesday morning.
The Red Wings involvement in the 2013 outdoor game has been one of hockey's worst kept secrets for months.
What will set the next NHL Winter Classic apart is this: The popular outdoor event will grow exponentially and spread its footprint to downtown Detroit.
In an effort to create a "two-week hockey celebration," culminating with the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, the NHL is in the process of orchestrating a series of complimentary events, hosted in and around Comerica Park.
According to the source, the Red Wings and owner Mike Ilitch pushed for the Detroit Tigers ballpark to be involved in the festivities. Ilitch, owner of the Tigers and Red Wings, wanted the league to include Comerica Park in its planning to include the city of Detroit in the festivities and maximize his financial opportunity.
The two weeks leading up to the game will feature college hockey games, American Hockey League action and an alumni game between former Red Wings and Maple Leafs players.
Each of these events is expected to be held at Comerica Park.
The NHL and Red Wings will also host a series of programs aimed at growing the game of hockey with youth players.
The college teams set to participate have not yet been determined. While it would make sense to include Michigan and Michigan State and perhaps even hold the annual Great Lakes Invitational at Comerica Park, the source said there is no guarantee that either school will participate because both programs have played in outdoor games previously.
Currently, the college matchups have not been finalized.
The formal announcement of the 2013 NHL Winter Classic, the events leading up to it and the venue was scheduled for January 24, but according to the source, the Red Wings requested to postpone the announcement until after the NHL All-Star break.
The Red Wings want to include their players in the announcement to make it "an event in itself."
The 2013 NHL Winter Classic would be the first hosted by the Red Wings. Detroit played in the 2009 NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Blackhawks.