NHL’s Wings to Host Leafs in Michigan Stadium Winter Classic

Feb. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs in the National Hockey League’s outdoor Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2013, at the University of Michigan’s football stadium, a game that could draw the sport’s largest crowd.

The New Year’s Day game will be the marquee event of a week of hockey staged in Detroit, the NHL said in a press conference today. The university is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 40 miles west.

Comerica Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers, will stage games featuring high school, college and minor professional teams, the NHL said. Mike Ilitch owns the Red Wings, the Tigers and Comerica Park.

The NHL will pay the university $3 million to rent the stadium for the event, the Detroit Free Press reported, citing Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon.

Two years ago, the University of Michigan beat Michigan State University 5-0 in front of a record crowd of 104,173, a game dubbed the Big Chill at the Big House. That game eclipsed the previous mark of 77,803 for a 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship game in Germany’s Veltins Arena, a retractable-roof soccer stadium.

The 2013 Winter Classic will mark the sixth consecutive year that the NHL holds an outdoor game around the new year. The Jan. 1, 2011, game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals was the most-watched regular-season NHL game since 1975, with 4.5 million viewers, according to NBC. Five of the six most-watched NHL games in the past 37 years have been Winter Classics, the network said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael Buteau in Atlanta at mbuteau@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net