ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A person familiar with the NHL’s plan said the Detroit Red Wings will play the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2013 Winter Classic.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity Wednesday because the league isn’t expected to announce the matchup until Thursday.
Earlier Wednesday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents authorized the athletic department to seek a contract with the NHL that would allow the league to hold next year’s showcase at Michigan Stadium. The NHL has offered to pay up to $3 million for a license to use the iconic college football stadium, according to the recommendation approved by the board.
The recommendation also said the Winter Classic would be scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, with an alternate date of Jan. 2. A liquor license would be obtained so alcohol could be served at the event, and the NHL would bring its “advertising and other sponsorship arrangements” into the stadium.
Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have all hosted the Winter Classic, but a game at Michigan Stadium could draw the league’s largest crowd.
The Wolverines and rival Michigan State attracted a Guinness World Record 104,173 people for a hockey game on Dec. 11, 2010.
This year’s Winter Classic at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park drew 46,967, and the New York Rangers beat the host Flyers 3-2.
No Canadian team has participated in a Winter Classic, although there have been two outdoor Heritage Classics north of the border: Montreal at Edmonton in 2003, and Montreal at Calgary last year.
The game at Edmonton was the league’s first outdoor regular-season game, although it came two years after Michigan State hosted Michigan in an outdoor hockey game at the Spartans’ football stadium in front of 74,544 people.
Those teams met nearly a decade later in Ann Arbor and smashed the world attendance record. At that point, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said the event was unlikely to become an annual tradition, but it could potentially be played in four-year cycles so future generations of Michigan players could participate.
The venerable Big House has undergone changes recently, such as the addition of permanent lights. Michigan hosted its first prime-time football game at the stadium last season, beating Notre Dame in dramatic fashion.
Although Detroit hasn’t hosted the Winter Classic, the Red Wings played in it in 2009, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 at Wrigley Field — the home of baseball’s Chicago Cubs.