From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Next year's Winter Classic could set an attendance record. The Detroit Red Wings will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium, a matchup of two Original Six teams at the iconic college football facility that drew more than 104,000 fans for a college hockey game in 2010. The NHL formally announced the details Thursday at Comerica Park. The home of Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers will be part of the festival, hosting games involving minor league and college teams as well as the Red Wings-Maple Leafs alumni game. The centerpiece will be the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, 45 miles west of Detroit, and it will include a Canadian team for the first time. "It's Hockeytown versus the center of the hockey universe," said Brian Burke, the Toronto general manger who was at the news conference with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Red Wings officials and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, among others. The University of Michigan Board of Regents this week gave the OK to seek a contract with the NHL that would allow the league to hold the showcase game at Michigan Stadium. The NHL has offered to pay up to 3 million, according to the recommendation approved by the board. The recommendation also said the Winter Classic would be scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, with an alternate date of Jan. 2. A liquor license would be obtained so alcohol could be served at the event, and the NHL would bring its "advertising and other sponsorship arrangements" into the stadium. Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have all hosted the Winter Classic, but a game at Michigan Stadium could draw the league's largest crowd. The Wolverines and rival Michigan State attracted a Guinness World Record 104,173 people for a hockey game on Dec. 11, 2010. The Big House has undergone changes recently, such as the addition of permanent lights. Michigan hosted its first primetime football game at the stadium last season, beating Notre Dame in dramatic fashion. Although Detroit hasn't hosted the Winter Classic, the Red Wings played in it in 2009, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-4 at Wrigley Field, home of baseball's Chicago Cubs. There have been two outdoor Heritage Classics north of the border: Montreal at Edmonton in 2003, and Montreal at Calgary last year. The game at Edmonton was the league's first outdoor regular-season game.
CLEVELAND – Gone but definitely not forgotten.
Isaiah Thomas, out for the rest of the playoffs with a right hip injury, wasn’t in the Q Arena physically, but his presence – and his face via FaceTime – were inside the locker room in the initial moments following their 111-108 Game 3 win over Cleveland.
“We called him right after the game,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “He got to celebrate with us a little bit. It’s sad that he’s not here. We wish he was here with us. We just want him to get better.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens added, “I didn’t even realize that had happened until later on. one of my first text messages was from Isaiah. He’s hurting not being out there but he’s completely invested, for sure.”
He initially suffered the injury on March 15 at Minnesota, but re-aggravated it in the first half of Boston’s Game 2 loss to the Cavs. Less than 24 hours later, Thomas was deemed out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Instead of Thomas being the rock of sorts that the Celtics lean on with his play, he has become their rallying cry for the remainder of the playoffs.
“All we can do is play hard for him,” Bradley said. “He was excited with the way we played. We’re a family. Other guys got an opportunity to step up for us. Marcus (Smart) had a big game for us. It could be somebody else next game.”
Smart led the Celtics with a career-high 27 points which included a career-best seven 3’s going down.
And most important, the Celtics avoided going down 3-0 which would have all but sealed their fate in this series considering no team in league history has ever come back for a 3-0 series deficit.
Doing so without Thomas, the Celtics’ leading scorer and the top regular season scorer in the Eastern Conference, made the win all that more impressive for Boston.
“It meant a lot,” Horford said. “We know, Isaiah gives us so much and gave us so much this year. For him, we definitely wanted to come out and fight for him and our season and our team. It felt good to keep believing despite being down big. Just felt good to win the game and bring life back to our locker room. Because going down 3-0, that’s a death sentence pretty much. This was big.”
Not only to the Celtics players but also to Thomas who also texted head coach Brad Stevens full of excitement following Boston’s surprising win.
“He was excited,” Horford recalled. “He was ecstatic. I know he wishes he was here being part of it. We just need to keep doing it for him and our group and doing the best we can.”