The NHL Alumni Association expects the payoff will be better the second time around when it comes to the league’s Winter Classic.
Some former NHL players complained following the annual outdoor game in Philadelphia on Jan. 1 about their modest compensation for the alumni game, which was held for the first time a day earlier. Players were given $200 plus airfare, meals and accommodation but the Alumni Association did not get a cut of the gate receipts for the game, which were estimated to be at least $4-million (U.S.).
However, that is expected to change for the next game, which will pit the Detroit Red Wings alumni against their counterparts from the Toronto Maple Leafs at Comerica Park in Detroit in conjunction with the 2013 outdoor game. The Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Leafs is set for the University of Michigan’s 104,411-seat stadium on Jan. 1.
Given the large number of hockey fans in Detroit and its suburbs, plus Southern Ontario, there is no doubt Comerica Park, which has a capacity of 45,000 for baseball games, will be sold out for the 2013 alumni game. At this point, though, no one is sure what compensation the alumni will get beyond a healthy donation to the association.
Former Maple Leafs player Mike Pelyk, who is the chairman of the association’s board of directors, said no negotiations with the NHL have started but “suffice to say the NHL alumni are going to be involved.”
Pelyk said the association is not unhappy about the Philadelphia alumni game because it was the first one, and neither the league nor the association had any idea it would attract a crowd of more than 45,000. “We were all surprised. It just shows hockey’s got a lot of [appeal]for a lot of people,” he said.