The NHL yesterday officially announced "what had been an open secret: that the two sides have rescheduled" the Winter Classic for Jan. 1, 2014 between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, according to Kyle Austin of ANNARBOR.com. The announcement comes two weeks after the Univ. of Michigan's board of regents "reaffirmed the facility rental contract between the two sides" for Michigan Stadium. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that cooperation from the UM athletic department "has been critical." The league also announced that the Great Lakes Invitational "will be held outdoors at Comerica Park in late December, as part of the Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park." NHL officials said that despite the cancellation and the year off from what has become "a successful annual event for the league ... they expect no dropoff in excitement for the 2014 Winter Classic." Bettman said that the game will start at 1:00pm ET on New Year's Day (ANNARBOR.com, 4/7). Bettman said that he expects the Winter Classic to "set a world hockey attendance record with at least 105,000 fans." He added that the Winter Classic will be "part of a two-week series of events that will include the Alumni Showdown ... as well as AHL, OHL and high school games in addition to the Great Lakes Invitational for college teams." Olympia Entertainment President & CEO Tom Wilson "thanked Bettman for giving Detroit a 'mulligan' after the 2013 event was canceled by the lockout." Wilson said that in "addition to the various hockey games, there will also be entertainment that will include concerts at Joe Louis Arena and the Fox Theatre" (MLIVE.com, 4/7). In N.Y., Jeff Klein noted HBO's "24/7" reality program "will return" (NYTIMES.com, 4/7). Sportsnet yesterday also announced that it has secured an agreement with the NHL for multimedia rights to "24/7" (Sportsnet).
DRESSED TO IMPRESS: In L.A., Dan Loumen noted the game will "feature players sporting retro jerseys." The jerseys "won't be replicas of those worn in the past but will feature a combination of logos and team names from different eras." Most of the Red Wings' uniforms will "feature the 1920s look of the franchise's Detroit Cougars days with the logo from the 1930s and lettering from the 1980s." The Maple Leafs' jerseys will be "even more of a conglomeration of eras, with the basic look featuring the style of the 1930s jersey combined with the original 1920s logo as well as number and pattern elements from the 1950s and '60s" (LATIMES.com, 4/7).
IS CALIFORNIA NEXT? In L.A., Helene Elliott reports a Kings-Ducks outdoor game at Dodger Stadium is "moving closer to reality." Details are "still being negotiated, but plans call for the teams to face off in a regular-season game on Jan. 25, 2014, using the portable rink and refrigeration equipment the NHL owns." A formal announcement is "tentatively set for April 17 or 18." The NHLPA "must approve components of the plan, and the NHL and the Dodgers must agree on financial aspects, including the division of revenue, but no snags have cropped up that appear big enough to derail a project the Kings have energetically promoted." The game would be "played at night to avoid sun on the ice." The NHL has "favored cold-weather cities for outdoor games, but advances in technology and the novelty of a game in Southern California won over skeptics who opposed a warm-weather site." The game between the Kings and Ducks would be the "first of two outdoor games that weekend." The second would be played Jan. 26 in N.Y., with Yankee Stadium the "preferred venue" (L.A. TIMES, 4/8). Kings VP/Communications & Broadcasting Mike Altieri in an e-mail wrote, "It's still in the planning stages and nothing is certain, but there is an aggressive plan to make it happen." Ducks Exec VP & COO Tim Ryan said, "There is nothing confirmed, but we would certainly have interest in being in the game" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 4/8).
RISK VS. REWARD: CBSSPORTS.com's Chris Peters wrote of the proposed game at Dodger Stadium, "It sounds like an incredibly risky option in terms of ice conditions, considering LA's average temperature in February is between 50 and 70 degrees, but it's certainly creative." The potential "national-attention grab of an outdoor game in California is just too good to pass up" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/7). ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote the "motivation for more American outdoor games is simple." The Winter Classic is a "huge success each year for the NHL in driving interest and revenue for the game." Bettman said, "It's no secret that lots of cities and lots of teams have said we really want one of these ... that doesn't mean we're doing it. We're aware of the tremendous interest. Obviously we can't ignore the interest." Custance wrote the "risk is in diluting the popularity of the Winter Classic" (ESPN.com, 4/7).