By Helene St. James
In Detroit, most people either love hockey or they really love hockey. The Detroit Red Wings are idolized in this town. We’ve named streets after our captains. We dress our city’s iconic nine-ton statue in Red Wings jerseys during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Almost every other car on the road has a Red Wings sticker or plastic flag flying from its window. Bakeries have even created special breads, bars drinks and restaurants sushi — all in honor of our beloved Wings. We are Hockeytown. On January 1, 2014, Hockeytown and the Red Wings will host Toronto (home of the Hockey Hall of Fame) and its Maple Leafs in the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. And we can’t wait.
If you’re not big into hockey, let’s just say this Winter Classic is BIG. The Wings and Leafs are longtime rivals. Both are part of the NHL’s Original Six, first playing one another way back in 1927. And it’s been a storied battle ever since.
As Brian Burke, former president and general manager of the Maple Leafs, so eloquently summed up the pending historic matchup, “It’s Hockeytown versus the center of the hockey universe.”
And, as if this game could not be any bigger, it will be played outdoors in Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium (aka “The Big House”), which means tens of thousands of cheering fans can come and watch. It may be cold, but who cares?
This game is much anticipated. Heck, we’ve all been champing at the bit for more than a year after the matchup was postponed last January (darn labor disputes!). No matter. The longer wait only makes the 2014 showdown a little sweeter. Plus, there’s a jampacked, two-week, lead-in Winter Festival set up in downtown Detroit’s Comerica Park (see the sidebar on Page 37 for details) to get the party started.
“I’m looking forward to the whole experience,” Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Being at The Big House, and with how many people that stadium can hold, it’s going to be wild. Playing against Toronto in a game like this, there’ll be so much on the line out there. Guys are going to remember this for the rest of their lives.”
Detroit has been raising its hand high, wanting to host the Winter Classic (which debuted in Buffalo in 2008), ever since the Wings traveled to Chicago to play in the 2009 game. Players gave that event rave reviews, and those who missed it relish the idea of playing this time around against the Leafs at Michigan Stadium.
It was the knowledge of just how many fans would want to see a game between Detroit and Toronto that spurred the idea to hold the event in Ann Arbor at The Big House. Toronto is only about 250 miles from Detroit, and both teams also have shared fans when you throw in Windsor, Ontario, just across the Detroit River. Just thinking about the January temps, the game and all the heated-yet-friendly banter that will go on between thousands of Wings and Leafs fans makes us giddy.
To give you a little added perspective: The Big House can host crowds in excess of 114,000, while most downtown venues have a seating capacity in the low 40,000s. And while the 2008 Buffalo game still holds the Winter Classic attendance record of 71,217, we think the 2014 game in metro Detroit could blow that away and possibly set a world record.
“I don’t think it can get any better than Detroit-Toronto,” said Ken Holland, Detroit Red Wings general manager. “This classic is going to be extra special.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Want tickets for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic?
Visit DetroitRedWings.com, ticketmaster.com or call 313-396-7575. Insider Tip: Tickets will include a Quick Response Code, a bar code that can be read by most smartphones. This will make it possible to receive information and updates about traffic, reminders that fans may not bring bags into the stadium, tips on parking and weather alerts.
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs will be wearing specially designed uniforms reminiscent of the franchises’ early years for the big game. Keep your eyes peeled for souvenirs in the same vein.
If all this hockey makes you crave a little ice time of your own, lace up your skates or rent a pair and go. Metro Detroit has a ton of rinks with open skating on the roster. Here’s a sampling of some of the area’s best indoor and outdoor (seasonal, of course) options.
Campus Martius Park
DD / 800 Woodward Ave. Detroit, 48226 313-963-9393
City of Birmingham Ice Sports Arena
O / 2300 E. Lincoln St. Birmingham, 48009 (248) 530-1640
Farmington Hills Ice Arena
GN / 35500 W. 8 Mile Road Farmington Hills, 48335 (248) 478-8800
Lake St. Clair Metropark
M / 31300 Metro Parkway Mount Clemens, 48046 (586) 463-4581
Lower Huron Metropark
DW / 17845 Savage Road Belleville, 48111 (734) 697-9181
Fri., Dec. 27-Sat., Dec. 28
Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m. Michigan State vs. Michigan Tech
Dec. 27, 7 p.m. Western Michigan vs. Michigan
Dec. 28, 3:30 p.m. Consolation Game
Dec. 28, 7 p.m. Championship Game
Sun., Dec. 29
1:30 p.m. London Knights vs. Saginaw Spirit
5 p.m. Windsor Spitfires vs. Plymouth Whalers
Mon., Dec. 30
6 p.m. Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies
Tue., Dec. 31
1 p.m. Red Wings Alumni vs. Maple Leafs Alumni
3:30 p.m. Red Wings Alumni vs. Maple Leafs Alumni
Fri., Dec. 27 - 1-10 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 28 - 1-10 p.m.
Sun., Dec. 29 - 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Mon., Dec. 30 - 1-10 p.m.
Tue., Dec. 31 - 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Alumni Q&A sessions
• Hockey Hall of Fame memorabilia and trophy exhibit
• Red Wings and Maple Leafs replica locker room display
• Molson Hockey House with concert stage and live music
• Snowzilla toboggan slide
• Outdoor fire pits
• Sponsor activation booths
• Caricaturists, balloon twisters and other family activities
• Ice sculptures
*Free for all Winter Festival game-day ticket holders — date specific. $5 admission for non-game-day ticket holders.
Mon., Dec. 16 - Sled Hockey, Media Kickoff, High School and College Hockey Games
Tue., Dec. 17 - Open Skate, Men’s League Games
Wed., Dec. 18 - Red Wings Open Practice (Free), High School Hockey Games
Thu., Dec. 19 - High School Hockey Games
Fri., Dec. 20 - Open Skate
Sat., Dec. 21 - Youth Hockey Games, USA Adult Hockey
Sun., Dec. 22 - Youth Hockey Games
Mon., Dec. 23 - USA Hockey Clinic, Youth Hockey Games, High School Hockey Game
Tue., Dec. 24 - Open Skate
Wed., Dec. 25 - Closed for Christmas
Thu., Dec. 26 - Great Lakes Invitational Practice (Free), Open Skate
See more Winter Festival hockey games above.
All event dates and times are subject to change without notice.
For the latest information, visit DetroitRedWings.com/2014WinterClassic or text “classic” to 21731 to receive special alerts.
The Detroit Red Wings as a franchise has been around since 1926, when the club was known as the Detroit Cougars. But the team’s identity really came together in the early 1930s. That’s when Canadian-turned-American millionaire James Norris Sr. bought the team, after which it was renamed the Red Wings, complete with a new logo. (A need-to-know: Norris went with the winged wheel logo the Red Wings are still sporting today in honor of his former Montreal AAA hockey club, the Winged Wheelers.)
Today the Red Wings’ red-and-white winged wheel is associated with 11 Stanley Cup Championships. No surprise, then, that demand has spawned everything from bibs and beer holders to indoor putting greens and outdoor flags bearing the logo.
The easiest place to search for anything sporting our winged wheel is the Web, but locally, Red Wings merchandise is available everywhere in metro Detroit, from downtown’s Joe Louis Arena and Comerica Park to Hockeytown Authentics, the team’s official store, some 20 miles away in suburban Troy.
Many metro Detroit eateries serve up dishes that celebrate the Detroit Red Wings. We suggest you try:
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg loves his favorite hometown Swedish pastry so much that he decided to introduce it to America. Rich vanilla enrobed in luxurious chocolate and topped off with sweet, succulent coconut flakes. Really? Sold exclusively at Just Baked locations in metro Detroit.
Shrimp tempura and cucumber with spicy tuna on top at Fishbone’s.
(yes, these are hot wings) and a “Red & White” Margarita (Malibu Red, a hint of coconut rum and tequila, blended with Taste of Florida juices over ice and finished with a splash of grenadine) at Hockeytown Cafe.
It’s a Red Wings playoff tradition to throw whole, raw octopi on the ice, but if you prefer it on a plate, try this Greek appetizer, served cold in a marinade of vinegar, olive oil, oregano and other spices. You’ll find it at any Greek-inspired eatery in downtown’s Greektown.
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said he can hardly wait for the 2014 Winter Classic. It’s his first outdoor game, and he’s planning on getting his toddler son, James Howard IV, in on the action — at least out on the ice during the family day skate — during the Winter Festival at Comerica Park. “He’ll be a little over 2 years old then,” Howard said, “so I can’t wait to get him out there for the experience.”
With dozens of family members and friends coming to town for the Winter Classic, we asked Howard about his plans and what he suggests you do while in Hockeytown — besides watch hockey, of course.
VISIT DETROIT: Where would you grab a bite to eat?
VISIT DETROIT: If someone doesn’t have tickets on game day in Detroit, where do you suggest they go to watch on the big screen?
VISIT DETROIT: What are some of your other top places worth a visit when in Detroit?
Helene St. James is a reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Her main beat is covering the Detroit Red Wings, which has included four Stanley Cup championships, trips to the White House and spending the summer of 2002 following the Stanley Cup around the Czech Republic. She also has covered multiple Olympic Games. One of her favorite pastimes is visiting museums, and she considers herself fortunate to live near a treasure such as the Detroit Institute of Arts.
If you’re interested in an entertaining lesson in Arab-American culture and history, visit the Arab American National Museum.
Visit the Arctic Ring of Life exhibit at the Detroit Zoo. Voted the largest and best polar bear exhibit in North America.
Enjoy the Sounds of Summer at The Mall at Partridge Creek. Live music in the plaza every evening through Labor Day.
Visit Motown Museum, the muscial birthplace of stars such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Supremes and more.