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Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Outdoor GLI to be part of Hockeytown Winter Festival; NHL expects 115,000 at Winter Classic

By Pete Cunningham


The Michigan hockey team will join Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan for an outdoor version of the Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29-30.

Angela J. Cesere |

Related coverage: Should U-M schedule more non-football events at the Big House?

DETROIT — Get your stocking caps and long underwear ready Michigan hockey fans. Next year's two-day Great Lakes Invitational will be an all outdoor event.

As part of the NHL's official announcement of the matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs for the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, it was announced that the 48th annual GLI will be outdoors at Comerica Park in Detroit.

Michigan, along with Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan, will participate in the two-day long tournament as part of a week-long inaugural Hockeytown Winter Festival at Comerica Park leading up to the Winter Classic.

The tournament will be held Dec. 29 and 30th, with the NHL alumni game to be held New Year's Eve followed by the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1. There will be AHL, OHL and high school games at Comerica as part of the event.

"The GLI we think was an important part of doing this," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "We were committed because the Ilitches were committed to making sure, as hosts, that Detroit was properly included."

Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said he didn't want the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium when the NHL first approached him, but that the ability to have the GLI and ancillary events at Comerica is "the best of both worlds."

Bettman estimated the Hockeytown Winter Festival will bring 150,000 to 200,000 people to Detroit in the week leading up to the annual outdoor game at the Big House.

Bettman said he hopes to sell 115,000 tickets for the game between the Wings and Maple Leafs, which would not only break the outdoor hockey record set in the Big Chill at the Big House in December 2010, but the all-time attendance record set at last year's football game between Michigan and Notre Dame.

"We don’t think we’ll have enough tickets to satisfy ticket demands at the Big House. We think we can get enough seats enough people to set the all-time record," Bettman said. "The Winter Classic has become a phenomenal event one of the major events on the sports landscape and we thought we took it to a point where this made sense and now we’re going to take it to another level in terms of scale."

Bettman said he anticipates the Winter Classic to sell out easily. Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke agreed.

"They said, can you send 30,000 tickets? I said, I need 48 hours. They said, can you sell 50,000? I said, I need 72 hours. Leaf Nation will show up in large numbers and will make a lot of noise," Burke said. "It’s hockey town versus the center of the hockey universe. I can guarantee you you’re going to see a lot of Blue in the Big House.”

Follow Pete Cunningham on Twitter @petcunningham.



Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Love the NHL at the stadium... But they GLI outside???? 2 of my favorite days all year watching hockey at the Joe in climate controlled splendor vs freezing outside???? Forget it. Season tickets for GLI will be available on eBay once I have them.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

Big House maybe i go to.COMERICA outside in winter i dout very much if i go to that.this is all about the NHL throwing scraps to Mike I.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

I am all for it if they include ice skating to let everyone know they have a skate team as well. Yes, UM has a synchronized ice skating team. So if you do hockey? Do the ice skating thing as well. One with the other or none at all.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.

Disappointed that GLI will be outdoors. It is two games and that is a long time to be outside for 2 college hockey games. Probably the first time in years that I won't be going to see the traditional GLI tournament.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

It's actually 2 games per day = 4 games... So the place will be empty except for the Championship game IF UM plays in it, empty otherwise, same as at the Joe


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:45 p.m.

what a bunch of party poopers you guys are. It will be good for Ann Arbors economy and a family event that will be fun. I for one will be happy to get a bunch of Maple Leaf fans buying stuff. As long as the machine takes thier credit cards I will be a gracious host!


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:17 p.m.

if they sell booze to hockey fans, will they sell dope to rock-show attendees... they're in it for the money after all.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

What if it's rained out? From Dec. 30 2011 "This week's rain in Ann Arbor meant the area topped 50 inches of rainfall for 2011 - yet despite more scattered showers in the forecast for overnight, meteorologist Dave Kook of the National Weather Service said it's not uncommon to have a weather pattern like this in December." Time to dome the Big House. "Spend a fortune to make a bigger fortune" – Cousin Ben Franklin Ilitch.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 7:43 p.m.

Interesting thought that no one is talking about, The NHL rink is going to be significantly smaller on the big house field than the Olympic rink they used for the big chill. Also no one has actually sold anywhere close to that many tickets to a hockey game before. A ton of big chill tix were packaged with football/yost season tickets


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

The NHL rink isn't that much smaller than an Olympic rink - it's 85 feet wide instead of 100. It won't make that much of a difference for watching the game. And if you think this isn't going to sell out, you're nuts. Leaf fans in Toronto can't get tickets to games and have to travel all over North America just to see their team play. You also don't know how popular the winter classic has become to NHL fans in general. They'll come here en masse. 115K will be an easy target for the NHL to hit.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

This will sell out in hours. Ann Arborites don't know how popular this game is.

Rob MI

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 9:57 p.m.

I'll hazard a guess that 80% of the people that will attend this game have never been to Michigan Stadium. When they realize how much they've paid per ticket (I'll go with at least a 40% markup over a "regular" game) and see how they're going to be shoehorned into these seats (nearly all without arms and without chairbacks), there's going to be some very loud complaining going on--not to mention the awful sight lines that will exist down low in the end zones. With capacity still officially listed at 109,901 (but less because of the aisle and seat widening taking place), I'm wondering where the extra 5,000-6,000 people are going to be placed (if the number of tickets to be sold is actually to be 115,000).


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 8:11 p.m.

Hockey is more popular than organized religion in Canada, and Toronto has the most rabidly loyal fans of them all. They could easily sell 115,000 tickets there, and not have a single Wings fan at the game.

Buck Wild

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 7:03 p.m.

"We were committed because the Ilitch's were committed..." Because the Ilitch's what were committed? And what do the Ilitches think about all this?


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 6 p.m.

I will be the contrarian: over or under 100,000 is the standard and I'll go under, maybe not by much. Th expectations seem high on the all time record. I wouldn't rule it out but it seems to be no slam dunk, sometimes even those can be missed.

Michigan Man

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:45 p.m.

I plan on attending this cool outdoor event with my good friend Jack Daniels!

Rob MI

Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

I've gone to every GLI since 1994 and have been a College Hockey at the Joe season ticket holder since 1996. I will not be attending this "novelty" GLI no matter what kind of incentives they throw my way and would just as soon not renew my CHatJ season tickets (which I'm sure will include these outdoor GLI games) than have to pay for these tickets. 6-7 hours each day, outdoors in late December, on two consecutive days to watch all 4 GLI games? No thanks--I'll pass. This is all about the money Illitch thinks he'll get from this. He, like any good businessman, only does what is in his best interest. If Illitch says "It's good for Detroit", he's actually saying "It's good for me".


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 7:01 p.m.

it's tue - when will these gimmicks end a merciful death? that is right, when they have effieciently killed interest in the actual games do u realize U-M played in the final game last year of the Frozen Four? Forgot? I know many did already ... and all anyone cares about or talks about are these stupid gimmick outside games - pro or college yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwnnn --- tired


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

"They said, can you send 30,000 tickets? I said, I need 48 hours. They said, can you sell 50,000? I said, I need 72 hours. Leaf Nation will show up in large numbers and will make a lot of noise," Burke said. "It's hockey town versus the center of the hockey universe. I can guarantee you you're going to see a lot of Blue in the Big House." I guess that settles the "can the NHL sell out the Big House" debate.