Bad news for Winter Classic? NHL brass not visiting Ann Arbor
In what seems to be a dire sign for the Winter Classic, the NHL Operations Department does not have plans to visit Ann Arbor this month.
Officials from league headquarters went to Michigan Stadium in September to do logistics scouting, part of the massive preparation to hold the scheduled outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1. But with the NHL already having canceled two weeks of the regular season — and with no progress made on tangible issues between the NHL and the NHL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement — no follow-up trips are on the horizon, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press today.
Were the 2012-13 schedule under way as normal — were the Winter Classic not at risk — operations people would have had a great opportunity to see Ann Arbor at its busiest this month. This Saturday is homecoming, and Michigan State visits the Big House on Oct. 20.
The possible demise of the 2013 Winter Classic also is bad news for Detroit, which was to host the Winter Festival at Comerica Park for two weeks, starting in mid-December. Part of the agreement by Wings owner Mike Ilitch to have the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor was that the NHL (which puts on the event) was to build a hockey rink at Comerica. The festival was to have included games at every level of hockey, from high school to Ontario Hockey League to the Great Lakes Invitational, culminating with a doubleheader of NHL alumni games Dec. 31.