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Top Line: How big the Winter Classic?; NHL alumni concerns; more links

Michigan Stadium is ready for the 2014 NHL Winter Classic Looks like Mother Nature will do her part to make the Winter Classic special this year. (Noah Graham/Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:

After two years of preparation and hype, the puck finally drops on the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor today. Sounds like the ice will be good and the weather should make for some TV magic.

It'll be a huge event, for sure ... but will it be record-setting huge?

Could the Maple Leafs be on the brink of hosting a Winter Classic in Toronto? The buzz suggests that significant taxpayer funds could be used to expand the local MLS facility to make it large enough to host the event in conjunction with the team's 100th anniversary. Cue the beet-faced outrage from local citizens in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

It was great seeing so many great—and graying—legends on the ice for Tuesday's Winter Classic Alumni games, but the event also served as a reminder of some very real and pressing concerns about the league's treatment of its retired players.

You won't believe what it took to be included on Detroit's A team for yesterday's alumni games. The Wings swept both games and helped keep Steve Yzerman's mind off a bigger date that's just a week away.

Stevie Y says he's ready to name his team today, but Team Canada's roster could still change between now and Jan. 7. Then, he says, he gets to listen to everyone tell him how stupid he is for the next five weeks. Sounds like a fun job, eh?

Where will Zach Parise be when Team USA is unveiled after the Winter Classic?

Ryan Kennedy looks at the performance of some key prospects in yesterday's 3-2 win by Canada over Team USA at the World Juniors. Sam Reinhart has really stood out for me. He's got a lot more smarts than flash to his game—his ability to read the play and react to it makes him special. He reminds me a lot of Logan Couture.

It's not that Dion Phaneuf's new seven-year, $49 million contract is a good deal. More like a necessary evil for a team that continues toward a focused rebuild.

Boston's Shawn Thornton made a surprising decision regarding the appeal of his 15-game suspension.

Whatever you do, don't ask Tuukka Rask if he's in a slump. And is it just me, or was he channeling Dante Hicks with that Ottawa response?

New Phoenix Coyotes owners Anthony LeBlanc and George Gosbee talk about the team's record attendance, the impact of the Canadian TV deal, and what they'll do to make their team a winner in this wide-ranging interview. Sounds like these guys are having fun—consecutive sell-outs will do that—and are willing to do what it takes to make that market work.

We know that Calder Trophy candidate Tomas Hertl had successful knee surgery yesterday. Beyond that, though? Not much.

Here's some nice work by the crack staff at Miami's NBC affiliate.

If the Wild decide to replace coach Mike Yeo—and that could happen before the end of this current road trip—it could be a familiar name that replaces him behind Minnesota's bench.

The Blackhawks appear to have a good one in rookie goalie Antti Raanta, but with Corey Crawford closing in on a return to action, they face a dilemma. Keep Raanta in Chicago or send him to the AHL for more consistent starts? Tracey Myers sets up the debate.

Roberto Luongo 's New Year's resolution? Win a Grammy Award for best jazz vocal performance. Well, if it's not, it should be.

Looks like it's the end of the line for former sixth-overall pick Gilbert Brule after his attempted comeback with the Coyotes stalled out this week. The guy carried a lot of emotional baggage during his career and you just have to wish him well in whatever comes next in life.

Mike Heika goes deep into “Auld Lang Syne” and explains why the Dallas Stars are primed to look forward as the calendar turns to 2014.
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