There is a "90 per cent" chance the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will be featured in next year’s Winter Classic, according to a source cited by Rosie DiManno of the TORONTO STAR. A Winter Classic "would be a huge solace and draw like crazy from Michigan and southern Ontario." A source said that "it’s this close to happening." However, the game "won’t be in Toronto because there’s no suitable outdoor venue." Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor will likely instead host the game. The Maple Leafs have "formally asked for all three marquee events on the hockey calendar next year: Winter Classic, all-star game and NHL draft." A Winter Classic "in 12 months’ time would be first on the agenda, and best odds, even with the Leafs as road invitees" (TORONTO STAR, 1/8). An NHL exec said that the league will make an announcement on next year's game "by the Jan. 29 NHL All-Star Game and that next year's event will 'break records'" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/9 issue).
USE YOUR HEAD: In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL "has become, by far, the most violent of our professional sports." The league is "in awkward transition, trying to figure out, amid a frightening escalation in the number of concussions, whether it should keep fighting in the game as sort of a throwback legacy piece" that many fans "find very entertaining and brings big money to the game’s bottom line." Dupont: "I think I know where this is going, and I hope I’m right. The fighting is finally going to end. When it does, GMs won’t hire fighters and coaches won’t have them as roster candidates" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/8). Meanwhile, the GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts noted Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Flyers D Chris Pronger "head a long list of NHL stars who may not or will not play again this season because of head injuries." But the NHL brass "refuses to admit this is a serious problem that needs to be tackled on many fronts." The NHL "needs to marshal the considerable forces it has access to and take bigger steps to find solutions." The league should "tap into the long list of reputable concussion experts willing to help and develop a sensible plan for treating concussions." Then it should get the NHLPA "to join it in strongly encouraging the players to follow it." As long as hockey "is a physical game, the chance of being concussed will always be there." But that is "all there should be, a long-shot chance" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/9).
AMERICAN MADE: The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle noted each year, the "number of NHLers from the United States has jumped considerably in the past seven or eight seasons alone." Last season, "156 American players played in 25 or more games -- an historic high for the NHL -- which is up from only 101 as recently as the 2002-03 season." While the "number of Canadians in the NHL has decreased only slightly of late -- with 52 per cent of players still coming from the country -- several European countries have dropped off dramatically." Between '05-06 and '10-11, the "number of Russians, Czechs and Slovaks who played 25 games in a season fell by 35 per cent, down to just 74 players," and "all of those spots have essentially been taken by Americans" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7).
UPDATE ON OLYMPIC PARTICIPATION: The CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported the IIHF met with the NHLPA, Hockey Canada and USA Hockey last week and “asked if it was possible to get the Olympic situation worked out by the spring.” The NHL was not present at the meeting, but Friedman said, “Don’t expect it” (“HNIC,” CBC, 1/7).