Red Wings, Bettman excited by Big House

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stood on the makeshift podium at the 50-yard line inside Michigan Stadium on Thursday afternoon and couldn't contain his excitement.

Earlier Thursday, the league announced the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs would be played at Michigan Stadium and as one of the architects of the idea, he couldn't help it.

"Wow," Bettman said. "There's a reason they call this the Big House."

Michigan Stadium, with its hockey-watching world record of 114,173 people for the Big Chill at the Big House between Michigan and Michigan State on Dec. 11, 2010, will now be the home of one of professional hockey's greatest spectacles.

And the NHL is going to try and break that attendance record. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has said if the NHL does break that attendance record, he plans on coming up with ideas on how to reclaim the record for Michigan.

Record or not, Michigan Stadium is bringing a certain level of excitement for the Red Wings.

Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard, though, has been here before. He has attended Michigan football games in the past, including sitting in the north end zone for a game this season.

"It's going to be an absolute thrill," Howard said while standing on the Michigan Stadium field. "I've been here several times for games and it's always exciting when you get in here and you see everyone filing in. It's going to be a different perspective being down here."

As he watched football games at Michigan Stadium, he thought about the possibility of playing hockey in the stadium, but didn't think it would become a reality until it was announced.

While Howard had been here, Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk had never been inside Michigan Stadium until Thursday afternoon. He joked walking down the tunnel they should ice it so the players could skate up and down it.

Most players, though, couldn't fathom a full stadium and what it would look like.

"It's tough to imagine that many people in here," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "You try to, but I don't think you'll be able to picture it until it really happens. I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to it."