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Posted on Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Winter Classic in Ann Arbor on the ropes: Hotels brace for bad news, hope for the best

By Ben Freed

Hoteliers are bracing for bad news as rumblings grow stronger that the Winter Classic hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium, scheduled for Jan. 1, could be canceled before the end of the week.

A dispute over the collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners in the National Hockey League has led to a lockout that has already forced the cancellation of all games through Nov. 30. An announcement is expected to be made on the fate of the annual outdoor New Year's Day game on Thursday, the day before a $250,000 deposit is due to the University of Michigan.


The Big House may not see a hockey rink on the field this winter. It would mean no $3 million payday for the university, and could hurt area hotels.

Melanie Maxwell |

Hotels started selling multi-night packages geared toward the event as early as June, but are now left scrambling for contingency plans while still hoping that the league will pull through and strike a deal.

“The hotel is pretty much sold out right now, but obviously I think that the game’s going to be canceled,” said Joe Sefcovic, general manager of the Holiday Inn near the University of Michigan, located on Plymouth Road. “I hope not, but we should find out shortly.”

Many hotels, bars and restaurants were preparing for record New Year's sales numbers, but could be left with normal, or even below-average holiday traffic. Sefcovic said that his hotel was nearly entirely booked for the weekend already despite a two-night minimum booking requirement.

“This was going to be like an extra football weekend for us,” he said.

Spinoff revenue from previous Winter Classics in Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have been reported to be between $22 and $36 million, far more than the $14 million generated from Michigan home football games.

“The whole town was pretty much in the same boat. I see a significant loss of revenue for the hoteliers if this falls through," Sefcovic said. "It’s a major curveball, no one ever expected this to happen, but you have money and greed dictating what’s going on. It’s frustrating for the fans and everyone that’s involved in it.”

Weber’s Inn has been running a New Year's package that includes a night at the hotel and a holiday party for more than 25 years, president and owner Ken Weber said. With the Winter Classic coming to town, that package was expanded into a three-night stay centered around the game, with an NHL-themed party on New Year's Eve.

“We had (about thirty) bookings already, including some corporate bookings from Toronto,” Weber said.

“Now it’s all up in the air. We understand it’s a possibility it will be canceled. If that’s the case we’ll just have to pull that package and come up with one that’s just a New Year's Eve package. But we’ve been doing that for so long it shouldn't be a problem.”

Weber said that the New Year's package at his hotel sells out every year and that he’s not worried about a loss in occupancy if the event is canceled. The three-night deal was priced at $1,175 per couple, while last year's New Year's event started at $369 for the one night.

If the game is canceled, Sefcovic said that hotel owners could "do the right thing" and not hold onto previously non-refundable deposits.

"If I was going somewhere to see the Super Bowl and then the game wasn't going to be played anymore, I wouldn't go," Sefcovic said.

"So I understand how people will feel and I could see people getting their money back."

The Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has been planning a “Puck Stops Here” event for downtown Ann Arbor that is scheduled for final review by the city on Nov. 8. Plans for the event call for shutting down a section of North Main Street between East William and East Huron streets, a roaming hot beverage cart, and the dropping of a “puck” lit by LED lights at midnight to bring in the New Year.

Organizer Jen DeGregorio said in an email that the CVB plans to proceed with the downtown party if it is approved by the city regardless of whether the Winter Classic takes place.

Thursday could be a bad day for hotels and businesses in the area, but Sefcovic is confident that even if this year’s event is canceled, there will be an NHL game in Ann Arbor.

“They’re going to come back,” he said.

“Maybe not this year, it might be next year, but I think we’ll see in the end the Wings will play in Ann Arbor.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

if there isn't a CBA soon there will not be an NHL season thus no Winter Classic.Even if a CBA is eventually agreed to the event may have to be cancelled because certain contracts with vendors have to be signed by a certain date and if they're not NO WINTER CLASSIC.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

Well, there are ice skaters who can be brought in for local talent? Maybe turn it into a local skating rink? Who knows. All I know is UM bought the deal and UM will probably eat it as well.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:48 p.m.

And who do you suppose will pay for amateur skating at the Big House.Certainly not Uni M.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:46 p.m.

Not quite how it works.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

sorry it is gone. no way will it happen. maybe in 2014


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I hope the owners of these teams realize they are KILLING an entire sport. We'll be lucky if the NHL ever comes back to the almost glory it once had...

Ben Freed

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

Was anyone here planning on going to the Winter Classic? Or were you planning to get out of town to escape the droves who'd be coming in? Does this change your NYE plans?


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

Home in front of the small screen sounds good to me.And it's a H--l of a lot cheaper.

Carrie Rheingans

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

I already have tickets to the Winter Classic and the GLI. I'm wondering how much of a refund we'll get if the Winter Classic is canceled - because those tickets were pretty expensive! Our anniversary is New Year's Day, so this will put a damper on the festivities :-( We live in Ann Arbor though, so wouldn't have stayed in a hotel - here or in Detroit for the GLI.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

We were trying to find a way to go. We travel for Christmas but we're always back in town by New Year's, so this would work well with our usual plans. If it's cancelled, we'll consider the GLI instead. We went last year. Great atmosphere.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Horrors! How did it ever come to this? What will we ever do? Maybe we can talk to each other or write a letter instead of consuming mass quantities and keeping our neighbors up til all hours.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

Write a letter? Sorry, this isn't the Northwest Territory and you don't live in a Little House on the Prairie anymore. Maybe you should move to somewhere where there is no internet, sports, or alcohol. Except I can't think of anywhere like that.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:40 p.m.

Ben, if this is cancelled you should do a follow-up with the hotels to see which ones are willing to issue refunds for their pre-booked room packages. This is a case where locals who patronize or recommend these hotels year-round might like to know which ones are willing to step up and be good corporate citizens.

Ben Freed

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Boris, We'll continue to keep our eyes on this situation as it develops. It might be tough to do a comprehensive survey of local hotels as many are unwilling to disclose such financial information but we will certainly attempt to keep you posted. Ben

Dog Guy

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Coach taught us a dozen types of checking: body, hip, poke, sweep, lift, press, and such. The current variant, check checking, allows anyone to be the goon. Sometimes spectators are injured.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

The players and the owners are getting exactly what each of them deserve in this situation.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 11:17 a.m.

I'm afraid it's not looking good for the Winter Classic. The owners still want to take way too much from the players and the players are holding their ground, as they should. I see it as a good chance we will have no season this year at all. With the cancellation of the Winter Classic almost here, I wonder what would happen with all of the non-NHL games to be played at Comerica Park. The GLI can't even sell 19,000 tickets at Joe Louis, how will they even put a dent in the seats at Comerica.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

because it is outdoors. that is the only reason.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 11:35 a.m.

It has been announced that the GLI will be moved to the Joe if the Winter Classic is cancelled.


Wed, Oct 31, 2012 : 10:50 a.m.

This is extremely sad -- come on settle the differences and get with it.


Thu, Nov 1, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

If they don't though i have a feeling SOMEHOW we'll survive.