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Brian Burke on 2013 Winter Classic: “Hockeytown versus the center of the hockey universe”

Feb 9, 2012, 12:10 PM EDT

Brian Burke AP

Never one for subtlety, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke put the 2013 Winter Classic in grandiose context on Thursday morning.

“It’s Hockeytown versus the center of the hockey universe,” he told NHL Live. “We’re really excited about this, obviously. Two passionate fanbases, but I can guarantee you’ll see a lot of blue in the Big House on Jan. 1.”

“A lot of blue” refers to the wave of Maple Leafs fans expected to crash Detroit for the Winter Classic. The cities are close to one another (approximately a four-hour drive) and based on the comments from Gary Bettman, there will be plenty of opportunities for both home and visiting supporters to get inside the Big House on New Year’s Day.

The NHL commissioner stated that 115,000 tickets will be made available for the 2013 Winter Classic, though he did say even with that amount, “we still won’t have enough to satisfy the demand.”

“The first meeting between a team from Detroit and a team from Toronto took place on Jan. 4, 1927. The Toronto Saint Patricks defeated the Detroit Cougars, 2-1, at a rink across the river in Windsor, Ont,” Bettman added. “When that game was played, the Big House was under construction. It opened Oct. 1 of that year, with a capacity of 72,000 — a capacity that’s grown to over 110,000 today.

“A capacity we expect to challenge, and surpass, when the Red Wings and the Maple Leafs resume their historic rivalry.”

Huge attendance numbers are also being projected for Comerica Park, which will host a variety of events during the Hockeytown Winter Festival:

— The Great Lakes Invitational tournament, featuring Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan.

— American Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League games.

— High school and youth games.

— The annual alumni contest and public skating.

Bettman said the events at Comerica Park should bring between 150,000-200,000 people to downtown Detroit.

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  1. whatswellydoing - Feb 9, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    I’m glad he’s not our GM anymore, but I can’t help but like the guy. What a quote.

  2. rainyday56 - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Redwings or Leafs = 1st class or no class at all.

  3. danphipps01 - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Take it in context, guys – name one city more central to hockey than Toronto. It’s not the Maple Leafs he’s saying are the centre of the hockey universe, but Toronto. And the man’s got a point. No other city is as utterly central to hockey. The Hall of Fame, the war room, the biggest franchise in the game, the list goes on. “Centre of the hockey universe” makes sense, really. If he had said the Leafs were I’d be wondering if he had taken a puck upside the head, though.

  4. 4twistedlogic - Feb 9, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    You would think a city labeled “hockeytown” would produce a few blue chip prospects every year but that’s just not the case. Keep selling it Redwings, if you say it enough it might just come true.

    But then again just look at the Redwings attendance numbers when they had a bad team in the 80’s. They were lucky to draw 8000 fans a night.

    • polegojim - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:04 PM

      The Red Wings make Detroit ‘Hockeytown’, prospects do not… but they all want to wear the winged wheel now, don’t they.!

      Let’s see…
      When a team is bad for 20 years, attendance plummets.
      When them same team gets good for 20 years, their attendance goes up…

      … and that surprises you? Way to go Capt Obvious.

      • 4twistedlogic - Feb 9, 2012 at 6:54 PM

        One would think “hockey town” will support a team in good times and bad.

        I thought THAT was obvious but clearly it’s not.

        And yes prospects do matter because it’s a sign of how rooted a sport is in a city. Did you see how many Minnesota born prospects were drafted last year? I think they had 10 just from Minnesota based high schools!!!

  5. polegojim - Feb 9, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    I hope there is PLENTY of blue in the stands. Love playing Toronto and enjoy it when the Leafs are good.

    But…. Brian – too bad your not as good at putting a Stanley Cup Championship teams together as you are at talking trash.

    Put up or shut up BB – Toronto deserves a winner on ice.

    Let’s GO RED WINGS!

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