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NHL Winter Classic: Toronto-Detroit rivalry comes to a head

By Chris Murphy
Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 9:28 AM

No El Nino. No La Nina.

No surprise that this winter - which, let's be honest, began feeling like winter many, many weeks before the solstice - is shaping up to be an old-fashioned Canadian Crippler.

Snow storms and ice storms have pounded Ontario eastwards, while those in the prairies and territories have been enduring temperatures cold enough to freeze time itself in what seems like cruel and unusual punishment. But it appears that this winter weather isn't the only thing that's classic this time around.

There is, of course, the NHL's annual Winter Classic. The latest installment is set to be played on New Year's Day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the massive University of Michigan Stadium. Or, affectionately known to thousands of sports fans as "The Big House". 

What makes this year's edition all the more classic is that the two combatants are both Original Six teams with a rivalry that dates back to the 1920s.

And get this: it's as even as it gets! According to DetroitHockey.net these two teams have recorded 335 wins AND losses against each other, while tying on 93 other occasions. As for the playoffs, it's just as close. Each team has beaten the other 59 times. In other words, the margin of error these two teams have on each other is tighter than two coats of paint.

And as of the time writing this article, they are also tied in the standings. The Toronto-Detroit rivalry is about as good as it gets! Throw in a -10°C forecast with some snow and this game really could resemble something played back on frozen ponds way back when ... except of course, it'll be in front of 100,000 people!

As for the Winter Classic game itself, the home team has lost four of the previous five editions, with the Boston Bruins beating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime at Boston's Fenway Park in 2010.

And something else that the American networks don't like to reveal, the Winter Classic is a variation of the original outdoor game idea.

You may remember the Heritage Classic, a game played in Edmonton's frozen Commonwealth Stadium in November 2003 in -30 windchill!

The home team lost that game, too, as the Montreal Canadiens bested both the host and the weather. But the match up on New Year's Day in Michigan will mark the first time a Canadian team will participate in the Winter Classic, and The Weather Network will have intrepid reporter Arda Ocal on location providing a glimpse into the sights and sounds of this historic game and atmosphere.

It's only fitting that during a winter which rivals the kind our grandparents often speak of, a rivalry as classic as they come, gets to be played where it all began ... outdoors.

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