'Get to border early' for Winter Classic, says Leafs Burke
Mayor Eddie Francis has offered his city's help to Ann Arbor; Windsor hotels plan travel packages
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has one piece of advice for Toronto fans planning to attend the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.
"I think you better get at the border crossings early if you plan to go to this game. That game day, there will be a lot of people in blue trying to cross and get back," he said. "This game will have benefits for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ontario as well."
Windsor should be one of the province's biggest beneficiaries when the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings face Jan. 1, 2013.
The NHL announced the long-reported matchup for its annual outdoor hockey game Thursday.
With the game being played at Michigan Stadium at the University of Michigan, it is expected more than 100,000 fans will be in attendance.
Many of them are expected to come from across Ontario to see the Leafs and that should help fill hotels on the Canadian side of the border.
Chris Ilitch, son of Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch announced Thursday the Windsor Spitfires will play the Saginaw Spirit in an OHL played at Comerica Park as part of the Winter Classic festivities. Details of the OHL's involvement haven't been worked out yet.
"There’s nothing more exciting. It's great for our communities," said Windsor Spitfires governor Peter Dobrich. "We’re going to help as much as we can."
So is Windsor's mayor, Eddie Francis.
Windsor mayor offers assistance
He said the city has informed the University of Michigan it's prepared to help with planning.
Francis said Windsor's track record is good when it comes to working together with Detroit on big events, including Super Bowl XL in 2006.
"We have a pretty good working relationship with the City of Detroit and with the different partners on the American side, including the tourism and other agencies," Francis said. "We've already reached out to the University of Michigan several weeks ago."
Game could be tourism boon
Eight hotels in downtown Windsor have already announced they will offer packages.
Gord Orr is CEO of Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. He is already arranging for buses to take guests to and from The Big House.
"Any time there's a sporting event going on in Detroit, it helps the Windsor-Essex economy," he said. "It's hard to quantify [the benefit] because normally it's individual travel and you don't even know why they're coming.
"But we'll have a better sense after we see how many packages are sold [for this event] and how many people we're putting on the buses."
World record on the line
The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted in favour of renting out its football stadium for $3 million.
Michigan Wolverines athletic director Dave Brandon said they should be able to pack in close to 110,000 fans into the stadium.
"It's going to be an exciting opportunity for us to host a huge event, and I know the NHL is hell bent to break the record that we set at the Big Chill in terms of the numbers of people that we brought in for our event, and I hope they do," Brandon said.
The Big Chill was an outdoor hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State in 2010. It holds the world record for attendance at an hockey game. It drew 104,000 fans.