A deal to hold the next Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings is close but not yet final.
In response to a report Wednesday morning on a Michigan web site, MLive.com, that a deal was completed, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an e-mail message “if and when anything is a ‘done deal’ regarding the Winter Classic, it will be announced. We have made no announcements yet.”
Other NHL sources said an agreement between the league and the University of Michigan is 90 to 95 per cent finished but a few important issues need to be resolved. One is the fact no alcohol is allowed to be sold at Michigan Stadium and the NHL wants that ban lifted for the game, which will probably be held Jan. 1, 2013.
The NHL also has to satisfy Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch, who prefers the game be held at Comerica Park in Detroit rather than Ann Arbor, Mich., which is about 60 kilometres from downtown Detroit. At this point, the plan is to install a rink at Comerica and hold some events there, such as the alumni game.
Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said he is aware of the talk about a game at Michigan Stadium but the Leafs have not been informed by the NHL of any agreement.
“We have not yet received a formal invitation from the NHL,” Burke said. “Until we do, this is speculation in my mind.”
However, there is no doubt the Leafs will be there once the deal is reached. “If we’re asked, we will always accept an invitation from the league for any event,” Burke said.
The league expects to set a world attendance record at the game. Michigan Stadium, which already holds the record with a crowd of 113,411 for a game in December, 2010 between Michigan and Michigan State, can be configured to hold 115,000 for a hockey game.