DETROIT – With the dust, meaning snow, finally settled, Wings general manager Ken Holland felt the Winter Classic was a complete success.
“I thought it was incredible,” Holland said in a phone interview Thursday. “The Big House is a tremendous facility to hold one of these events, just like Joe Louis Arena. There aren't many bad seats in the house. It's a great theatre type of setting.”
Detroit lost to its Original Six rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2 in a shootout.
The game was played in a steady snow fall.
“The snow reminded me of when we played on the lake when we were kids and we'd have to stop and shovel the snow,” Holland said. “It was an incredible day, a very memorable day.
“It was an unbelievably positive experience for many people,” Holland continued. “It was cold, but there was such energy in that stadium. Everyone knew they were being involved in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It turned out to be an incredibly positive day for our team and for our fans.”
Of the five previous Winter Classics, the Wings were the first host to have games played at two different venues – Michigan Stadium and Comerica Park.
Comerica Park hosted two alumni games, an American Hockey League game, two Ontario Hockey League games and numerous other games and events the two weeks leading up to the Winter Classic.
“I like to think we did things that future cities hosting these games can build on, with the Winter Festival experience,” Holland said. “It was a special couple of weeks in Detroit.”
The announced attendance for the Winter Classic was 105,491.
“We had 105,000 people who braved the elements,” Holland said. “It would be awesome to host another one of these Winter Classics somewhere down the line.
“A guy texted from Chicago and said it was surreal watching it on TV,” Holland added.
If the announced attendance is accurate it will be a world record, breaking the old mark of 104,173 that was also set at Michigan Stadium for The Big Chill at The Big House in 2010.
“We know we sold 105,000-plus tickets,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said following the game. “We also suspected there were some no shows because we heard stories of people taking more than two and half hours to get here from downtown Detroit because of the road conditions and it was at least during the second period 13-degrees with the wind chill of a minus-1 so I don't know if we set the official Guinness attendance record, but I know we set our own record because this was the most well attended game that we've ever had. Based on tickets sold we should have, but again, since people were still arriving in the second period it's hard to know.”
Holland feels if the demand is there the outdoor games are here to stay.
“At the end of the day, if the demand is there by fans it'll happen,” Holland said.