With 50,000 Toronto Maple Leafs fans dressed in blue and 50,000 Detroit Red Wings fans dressed in red, cheering on their respective teams in a Super Bowl-like environment — that’s how Leafs head coach Ron Wilson says he would like to spend his New Year’s Day in 2013.
On the heels of the news that the Leafs and Red Wings will reportedly take part in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium, Wilson said he is looking forward to the possibility of being a part of a game like that.
“It’s hard to beat being in the Stanley Cup finals; it’s hard to beat winning a World Cup or being in a number of those type events — the Olympics, competing for the gold medal,” Wilson told Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Thursday. “This will be different … a Super Bowl-type atmosphere.”
The fact that the Leafs are rumoured to play Detroit would make the game that much more special for Wilson, as his family has a historical connection with the franchise. Wilson’s late father, Larry Wilson, and his late uncle, Johnny Wilson, both played for the Red Wings in the 1950s.
“The fact that I could share that with my family would be quite thrilling,” Wilson said.
On Dec. 11, 2010, Michigan Stadium played host to an NCAA college hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State that set a world record for attendance at a hockey game with 113,411. Wilson believes the energy at the venue during a Leafs-Wings game would be quite memorable.
“I haven’t even been to an outdoor game myself, obviously seen them on TV, but this would be really unique,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen the pictures of when Michigan (played Michigan State) and it’s phenomenal. And that was more of a low budget event where they didn’t put all the extra NHL stuff around the ice.”
The NHL has held several games in football stadiums in the past — like the 2008 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and the 2003 Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers at Commonwealth Stadium –but Wilson believes a game at Michigan Stadium would be different.
“I mean you have the rink in the middle of the field, but the sightlines are unbelievable because of the way it’s set up,” Wilson said.
“I think it would be a phenomenal atmosphere if you had 50,000 Leafs fans, 50,000 Red Wing fans, one side’s red, one side’s blue. I don’t think it could be any better.”