ANN ARBOR, MI – The Guinness World Record for largest crowd to watch a hockey game is 104,173, set at the Michigan State vs. Michigan “Big Chill” game at the University of Michigan in Dec. 2010.
If everyone who purchased a ticket to the 2014 Winter Classic passes through the turnstiles at The Big House on Wednesday afternoon, the NHL will shatter that mark.
The NHL has sold 105,500 tickets to the Winter Classic, according to COO John Collins. “That should get us the record,” he said, added that credentialed individuals, staff and stadium workers aren’t part of the count.
Guinness officials are on hand to verify the totals. There are some concerns that weather could play a factor in attendance, as snow is expected for the outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Winter Classic is one of three outdoor games for the NHL this season that have sold out, along with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils at Yankee Stadium and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks at Solider Field. Three other games have yet to sell out: The Rangers and Islanders at Yankee Stadium, the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks at Dodger Stadium and the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators at BC Place.
NHL.com has been running discounts on tickets to the New York and Los Angeles games, sparking concerns that the sales have been soft.
Collins said the second Rangers game at Yankee Stadium was a different challenge for the NHL.
“It’s a second game, and it’s a Wednesday night game, but we think there’s going to be a lot of enthusiasm for that game,” he said. The Devils and Rangers are scheduled for a Sunday afternoon three days earlier.
He’s optimistic the game will sell out because it’s also Super Bowl week in New York. The idea that the NHL could direct market to fans whose teams are in the NFL title game isn’t out of the question.
As for the Los Angeles game, Collins said part of the issue has been the sticker shock for fans that normally attend baseball games there.
“What we find when we go into baseball stadiums is that the best tickets for watching a hockey game aren’t necessarily the best tickets for viewing a baseball game,” he said.
For example, the best seats for hockey are ones that go for $7 when the Dodgers play.
“There’s a little bit of an education issue there. We have to let fans know the reason why it’s priced is that they’re the best seats in the house,” he said.
The NHL has already reduced the prices on some Dodger Stadium tickets, as $249 seats were dropped to as low as $189. The LA Times reported that 80 percent of the tickets to the game had been distributed.
Collins said the NHL will have a chance in the next week to hype the remaining outdoor games, both with the spotlight on the Winter Classic and with entertainment announcements for some of the venues.
“The expectation is that we’ll be sold out in NY and LA,” he said.
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