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NHL Detroit Red WingsToronto Maple Leafs

2013 NHL Winter Classic hosted by Michigan’s “Big House”

The NHL’s Winter Classic, held the past few seasons on New Year’s Day and played in major outdoor venues, has started to renew some interest in a once stagnating professional league.

Playing outdoors in venues like Fenway Park and Wrigley Field has added an element of unpredictability which is both refreshing and drama-building, both of which are outstanding in driving ratings.

The 2013 NHL Winter Classic is taking a new tack and will be played in one of college football’s most legendary stadiums, the famed “Big House” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the Michigan Wolverines.

The game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings will be formally announced at a press conference set for Thursday in Ann Arbor at 1:15 local time. A separate press conference is also scheduled for earlier in the day at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

There were several hurdles along the way for the game’s organizers, but each was met with confidence and a strong bargaining position. The biggest obstacle was obtaining permission from the Michigan Board of Regents to use the facility which was finally secured this morning.

It will be interesting to see if as many hockey fans pack the Big House as traditionally do for the annual Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game which draws crowds well over 104,000.

If so, the NHL could set an all-time attendance record at the 2013 Winter Classic which would stand as a precedent in the history of the professional game.