The NHL made it official yesterday. The Winter Classic for next year would be in Detroit at Michigan Stadium, which is more commonly known as the Big House. The Leafs would visit the Red Wings in front of over 110, 000 fans. This isn't big news as this was a poorly kept secret, the rumours had been around for nearly a month. Assuming HBO does a 24/7 series on the event, like they have in the past, it will be a very exciting month leading up to the Winter Classic.
Two Original Six rivals will be going at it in front of an NHL record breaking audience. Leafs GM Brian Burke said, "It's Hockeytown against the center of the hockey universe", when describing the event. The Winter Classic is expected to break the NHL record for largest attendance at a single game, but there are also plans for a series of events to build up to the game around the city. Rather than calling the entire plan the "Winter Classic" its being dubbed the "Hockeytown Winter Festival".
The Winter Festival is set to include far more than the outdoor game between the Leafs and the Red Wings. As per tradition there will be an alumni game played at Comerica Park, but there is expected to be far more. The Great Lakes Invitational, which is a tournament of Michigans four college teams, is also to occur during the weeks leading up to the outdoor game. There is also going to be an AHL match-up between the Maple Leafs affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, and the Red Wings affiliate, the Grand Rapid Griffins. Two OHL games, high school games, youth hockey games, and public-skating sessions are also to be arranged at Comerica Park.
Lets not forget about HBO's 24/7 series. A series of four episodes that shows footage of what really happens behind closed doors with these two teams. This will be the first 24/7 series showcasing the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs fan base is a very off-the-wall fan base. It seems everyone thinks they're a better GM or coach or player than the ones currently employed. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson are criticized after every game, lose or win. In the past, these rather opinionated, and often uneducated, fans would call in on radio shows and voice their thoughts. As technology advances, avenues such as twitter give an open shot to everyone to say speak their mind, regardless of how vulgar or indecent their thoughts are. It's sad when someone creates a twitter account solely for the purpose of retweeting the stupid things that other people tweet to Brian Burke. If you want a good laugh and you're a twitter user you should follow @AskBrianBurke.
The reason I decided to bring this up is because the 24/7 series will show an in-depth look at how Brian Burke works, and how Ron Wilson and his assistant coaches run the team. There are a ton of people that say the Leafs should have fired Wilson, but they have never seen the team in practise. They have never seen what he tells the team to do, and how the players react to him. A coach loses his job when the players stop playing for him, when they don't try because they're fed up, and once the team stops listening to the coach, there's no reason for him to be there. There's no evidence that the Leafs have ever stopped playing for Ron Wilson, and based on what I have picked up from interview of both the coach and the players, the relationship seems to be a very strong one. That being said, I could be completely wrong. The point is that I just dont know, and neither do most people. That is why it will be interesting to watch the 24/7 series and get a look at how Ron Wilson chooses to coach the team and on where the respect level is for both him and the players.
The bad news is that all this news broke almost a calendar year before the event is set to take place. So everyone just needs to sit tight in anticipation for the next few months...