Five reasons this season's Winter Classic will be the best yet:
1. The Rivalry
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings have been playing each other for 87 years, and only two points separate the teams in their all-time series.
In 645 regular-season meetings, the Red Wings have a 276-273-96 record vs. the Maple Leafs. In points, their edge is 648-646.
In some ways, it's a border war, because Windsor, Ontario, is across the Detroit River from Detroit. There's a tunnel roughly a mile from Joe Louis Arena, and the Ambassador Bridge is a few miles away. Windsor is home to Red Wings fans and Maple Leafs fans.
Realignment has spiced up the rivalry, because they are both in the Atlantic Division, meaning they will compete against each other yearly now for a playoff spot.
2. The Venue
The Big House, as Michigan Stadium is nicknamed, is an iconic venue, providing the NHL a chance to set an attendance record.
It's also an ideal setting, because its oval shape seems perfectly suited for an ice rink. The rink looks as if it were designed to be an exact fit in the stadium.
The sightlines are perfect for viewing. It will be a spectacle of the highest magnitude.
Playing the Winter Classic at a college stadium will give the game a different feel. Parking in the Ann Arbor, Mich., neighborhoods. For fans, even walking up to the stadium will be unique.
3. Visiting team presence
NHL officials say 35,000 to 40,000 of the people in the stands will be Maple Leafs fans. On a raw number basis and a percentage basis, that's a much higher visiting team presence than in previous Winter Classics.
4. Competitive equals
Neither team has been in sync this season, though the Maple Leafs are currently on a 3-0-2 run. Both teams have been undermined by injuries. Through a variety of circumstances, they are flawed teams fighting for their playoff lives.
They're tied with 45 points heading into the game.
Depending on what happens in the Metropolitan Division, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs could end up fighting for one playoff berth.
MORE: Game taps into nostalgia
Because of their love of international competition, Canadian fans have a long history of embracing road trips to see their teams. Canadian fans are uniquely, boisterously fun in their fandom. This is the first presence of a Canadian team in a Winter Classic, and Canadian fans will change the dynamic.
When they met Dec. 21, the Red Wings won 5-4 in a shootout. Both sides made mistakes in the highly entertaining game but also showed some conviction toward trying to play at a higher level.
5. Right playbook
Every year, the NHL has improved the Winter Classic concept. NBC pays major respect on New Year's Day, and the league has claimed a corner of Jan. 1 to call its own.
The league's chief operating officer, John Collins, has said the Winter Classic is like the NHL's Super Bowl. College football doesn't exclusively own New Year's Day anymore.
With snow expected on Wednesday, this game could break the ratings record.
HISTORY OF WINTER CLASSIC JERSEYS