Starting today, the Toronto Maple Leafs only have the Bridgestone Winter Classic to think about. Last night’s 5-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes was the team’s 2nd in a row and the last game before the New Year’s Day contest against the Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium. The Red Wings have one last game against the Nashville Predators tonight before the sixth edition of the outdoor NHL event gets underway. They have won three of five and will be going for two in a row tonight.
For fans the anticipation has been built to perfection. The game is predicted to be the most attended hockey game in history, which means an anticipated 100,000 plus hockey fans are expected to brave the cold to witness history and a little hockey.
The NHL has promoted the game to no end starting with a microsite dedicated to the big game with information for fans, including news, previous outdoor game highlights and the all important weather forecast. The game has taken over the NHL Instagram account with images of preparations. There is a webcam featuring live coverage of the stadium. And, of course, there is the award winning HBO series 24/7.
The series has aired three of four episodes chronicling the state of the two teams leading up to the January 1st Winter Classic and with all-access coverage has caused no shortage of headlines including Sidney Crosby’s distaste for Toronto forward Nazem Kadri’s play and revealing the extent of captain Dion Phaneuf’s contract negotiations.
Additionally, the NHL has organized a star-studded event starting with an All-Star alumni showdown on December 31st that will feature legendary players like Nicklaus Lidstrom, Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman, Matt Sundin, Tie Domi and Dave Andreychuck. The Zac Brown Band will perform the Star Spangled Banner and The Tenors will perform the Canadian National Anthem. There will also be an intermission performance by Mayer Hawthorn. Fans can expect an unforgettable event to ring in the New Year.
If none of the preamble has excited fans, there`s still the game itself between two original six teams who have become Division Rivals in 2013-2014. The Red Wings and Leafs are currently tied in the standings and ranked 4th and 5th in the Atlantic Division respectively. Both teams have struggled with injuries and, as a result, consistency for much of the season and have found themselves in the two Wild Card positions in the Eastern Conference playoff race with more than half a season still to play.
The only meeting between the two thus far this season was an exciting 5-4 shootout win by the Red Wings on December 21st. However, the Maple Leafs have won four of the last six contests dating back to 2002. Expect another wide-open high scoring affair between these two teams as they face-off in the second of four meetings in front of a record crowd. While the Red Wings have struggled at home and the Leafs have struggled on the road this season, the proximity between the two cities means that the crowd should be evenly split and should make for a different experience for the players and the fans.
Here`s hoping it`s all the NHL expected it to be and more.
Tickets are still available here at Hockeytickets.ca