It was one of the worst-kept secrets in all of sports. Today, it was no longer "secret."
The National Hockey League announced that the 2013 Winter Classic will be held at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and will pit the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The game will take place on January 1, 2013.
The University of Michigan's Board of Regents approved the leasing of Michigan Stadium to the NHL in return for $3 million dollars. The agreement allows the league to sell alcohol and advertising inside the stadium.
It had long been known in most circles that the NHL desired to hold next year's Winter Classic at the Big House in hopes of shattering the world and NHL records for attendance at a hockey game. The NHL record for attendance was set at the 2008 Winter Classic when 71.217 attended the Penguins and Sabres game at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium. On December 11, 2010, the University of Michigan hosted Michigan State in "The Big Chill at the Big House," and set the Guinness World Record for attendance at a hockey game with 104,173.
The NHL expects to break both of those records next year.
While the Red Wings will serve as host of the game, the game will not be in downtown Detroit, which is where Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch preferred the game to be held.
Ilitch will be placated somewhat though, as a second rink will be built at Comerica Park, home to the Ilitch-owned Detroit Tigers. Many different games are set to be played at Comerica Park, including an AHL game between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Toronto Marlies. Along with the AHL game, the Great Lakes Invitational, a couple of OHL (Junior Hockey) games, and several youth and high school games will also be played at Comerica Park. An alumni game is also expected to be played in downtown Detroit, all serving as a buildup to the Winter Classic in Ann Arbor.
Toronto is the first Canadian team to be involved in the Winter Classic, which started in 2008. It's expected that many Maple Leafs fans will make the trip to Ann Arbor, thanks to close proximity to the Canadian border where the game will be played.