Winter Classic attracting record crowd for outdoor spectacle

Lovers of the coolest game on ice should be in for a treat to start the New Year. 

The NHL is reviving its annual Winter Classic outdoor game, with the next contest slated to be on Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. on NBC. The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing the Detroit Red Wings in a showdown of two of the league’s founding teams. Outside of the history between the two, the matchup does carry some importance as both teams are looking to gain ground in the Atlantic division and keep their playoff hopes alive in the Eastern Conference. 

Interestingly, the showcase at the University of Michigan’s Big House football stadium might be a world record crowd for a hockey game of more than 100,000 fans. The world’s third-largest stadium and the biggest in the U.S. has an official capacity of 109,901 though there has been crowds in excess of 115,000. It’s also a year in the making after Ann Arbor missed the chance to serve as host with the NHL lockout. 

Mary Kerr, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the contest will have a huge financial impact. 

“We were all disappointed after last year’s postponement,” Kerr said. “However, we’re thrilled for the opportunity to host the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic instead. The $15 million estimated impact will be a great boost to our economy, but it’s more about sharing our city and its attractions with an international audience. 

“We know football fans can bring the noise and we’ve experienced one other outdoor hockey game at the Big House. However, everyone is anticipating a record-breaking event on Jan. 1 and we couldn’t do it without the 45,000 Toronto Maple Leafs fans joining us for the main event.” 

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Outdoor hockey will be on display in Michigan to start the New Year. – PHOTO: AP
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