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With the 2012 NHL Winter Classic tomorrow, I felt it appropriate to sit down and assert my thoughts on the event. The NHL’s fifth annual outdoor regular season game will feature two long-time Atlantic Division rivals as the New York Rangers (23-9-4) head to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to face-off against the Philadelphia Flyers (22-10-4). The original plan was to throw the party at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Eagles are scheduled for a home game New Year’s Day. That scheduling conflict hampered the one-week preparation time needed to construct an outdoor ice-rink. This is set up to be a brilliant matchup as two points in the standings only separate the two clubs.
|The current setup for the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
All week, MSG has been airing the previous four Winter Classic’s to hype up this year’s event as a repeating series called “Countdown to the Winter Classic.” A few nights ago I sat down and watched the full 2008 classic; the first time I’ve actually watched the entire broadcast since attending the game. Looking back on the excitement level in the city of Buffalo as it hosted the first of many classic games, I took some interest into when we could possibly see the Winter Classic return to Buffalo. With that, I wanted to look at each location it could possibly take place at in the future.
The 2013 NHL Winter Classic will take place on Tuesday, January 1st, 2013. Assuming the NHL will keep the trend of awarding a new host city every year, along with also awarding a cold-weather city capable of outdoor hockey on New Year’s Day (sorry Miami… 76 and sunny doesn’t cut it), here is the list of the 16 NHL teams that remain:
For the sake of this post and how absolutely magnificent the “snow-globe effect” was in Buffalo during the 2008 Winter Classic… paired with Ryan Miller’s toque, warmer weather cities are out (Miami, Tampa Bay, Dallas, Phoenix, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Nashville and Carolina). Chilly weather and a trace amount of snowflakes are of the essence in my eyes. An asterisk denotes a team that has taken part in a past Winter Classic as the visiting team. Whether or not that hurts their chances of hosting a classic in the future before any other team is unknown. After tomorrow, both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh will have played as the host club and the visiting club. I placed the Canadian teams in italics because the Winter Classic has so far only featured US-based teams, while the Heritage Classic involves Canada-based teams.
NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins addressed the media yesterday after the Winter Classic Alumni Game on other topics regarding the future of the Winter Classic. Most importantly, he said the NHL isn’t likely to stretch much beyond the Midwest for future Winter Classics because it likes the 1 p.m. EST window on January 1 or 2. “We have a window at 1 o’clock on New Year’s Day, so that limits your ability to go west,” he said. “We like that window, and we like the family environment at these games. I think part of that is playing at 1 o’clock.”
Without further adieu, let’s talk hypothetical venues in no particular order. Below you’ll notice the venue name, location, maximum seating capacity for ice-hockey and the locations average outdoor temperature on January 2nd.
Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, MI - (cap. 109,901 – avg. temp. 25°)
Host: Detroit Red Wings
I wanted to start here because not only is this the largest stadium in the United States in terms of capacity (nicknamed “The Big House” for a reason), it has a rich history and minor speculation already exists that this will be home ice for the 2013 Winter Classic. If these rumors turn out to be true and the game is indeed awarded to Ann Arbor, it could break the NHL’s all-time single-game attendance record due to the tremendous number of seats in this venue. Last December, “The Big Chill at the Big House” took place here as 104,173 people saw the Michigan Wolverines take on their long-time rival in the Michigan State Spartans. This game was a rematch of the “Cold War” game in 2001, which set a precedent for outdoor ice-hockey in the United States. A Winter Classic in Ann Arbor would surely be a great sight.
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN – (cap. 39,504 – avg. temp. 16°)
Host: Minnesota Wild
Target Field, home of baseball’s Minnesota Twins, welcomed it’s staff on January 4th, 2010 with a final construction cost of $545 million. An outdoor hockey game on January 1st, 2013 would be a sensational way to celebrate the third birthday of this fresh, new, state-of-the-art baseball stadium. Fans in attendance might be a little on the cold side with an average temperature of 16°, but heated viewing areas can hopefully provide relief. The popular left-field Budweiser roof deck features mostly standing room and the only bonfire in the majors. In 2010, ESPN The Magazine ranked this venue as the #1 stadium experience in North America, beating out 121 others. The surging Wild this year along with the astonishing ice-hockey fan-base in Minnesota make this an ideal site for a future Winter Classic.
Yankee Stadium – Bronx, NY – (cap. 54,251 – avg. temp. 34°)
Host: New York Rangers
Yankee Stadium is freshly constructed much like Target Field but at almost triple the cost coming in with a controversial final price tag of $1.54 billion opening in April 2009. Although this venue is rich with baseball history and some may argue that ice-hockey has no business being played on the historical field, I say why not? They have already played football, held boxing matches, NYU graduation ceremonies and prayer services within the walls of the stadium. The only argument I see against the venue hosting a Winter Classic is that it may shockingly be too small since it is indeed located near the most populated city in the country and will sell tickets quickly. MetLife Stadium, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants might be a better option boasting a seating capacity of 82,566. Will we see a Classic in the Bronx sometime soon? The New York Yankees were in discussions with the NHL to host the 2011 NHL Winter Classic but the NHL chose Heinz Field as the host. The stadium was a candidate to host the 2010 NHL Winter Classic as well before it was awarded to Boston’s Fenway Park. Imagine a Rangers/Islanders Winter Classic at Yankee Stadium… we would have to call it something along the lines of a “Subway Series.”
Citi Field – Flushing, NY – (cap. 45,000 – avg. temp. 34°)
Host: New York Islanders
Looking at the other end of New York’s subway system, a ride on the 7 Train will get you to Citi Field, home of baseball’s New York Mets. I’m building a streak here, as this stadium is also new, opening for business in 2009 with a final construction cost of $922 million. Citi Field hosted a soccer game on June 7, 2011 between the national teams of Ecuador and Greece. The extreme success of the game has led the Mets to consider having Citi Field host future soccer games as well as the Winter Classic. Citi Field has somewhat of an edge over Yankee Stadium according to John Collins. “There are a lot of really great venues in the New York area,” Collins said. “Yankee Stadium is obviously a special place, but we can’t get in there for the next couple of years” because of college bowl game commitments. The Yankees have hosted the Pinstripe Bowl on December 30 the past two years. So Citi Field could see one of the next few Classics and I’m assuming the Islanders would play host as their home is only a mere half-hour drive down the parkway. Who wouldn’t want to be in the Big Apple for New Years’ biggest party anyways? We could be seeing Goal Apples as soon as 2013 people. Get ready.
FedEx Field – Landover, MD – (cap. 82,000 – avg. temp. 35°)
Host: Washington Capitals
The second-largest stadium in the NFL by capacity, our countries capital a half-hour away, and the thought of Alexander Ovechkin’s antics outdoors make this venue more than ideal to host a Winter Classic in the future. If the 30-year waiting list for Washington Redskins season tickets is any sign at all of avid sports fans in Washington, selling the place out wouldn’t be a problem. Who would be the guest? Pittsburgh, New York or maybe even Detroit? I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing our Sabres down there in another football stadium Classic.
Busch Stadium – St. Louis, MO – (cap. 46,861 – avg. temp. 32°)
Host: St. Louis Blues
Call it the “New Busch Stadium” or “Busch Stadium III”, whatever have you… but the home of baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals would be a wonderful place for the Blues to drop the puck with the panoramic view of the Gateway Arch and downtown skyline in the background. The Midwest location would allow for a west coast team to jump in the mix barring any objections the NHL has with a noon EST start. The many amenities of this modern ballpark would provide a positive feel and atmosphere. Fantastic food and beer as well around every corner. But how would beer sales work at Busch Stadium when Molson Canadian is the official beer of the NHL? That would be interesting to see play out along with one other issue with this venue: I think the rally squirrel might have some trouble getting over the boards and onto the ice surface.
Coors Field – Denver, CO – (cap. 50,445 - avg. temp. 32°)
Host: Colorado Avalanche
Moving on to another beer-related baseball venue that might not get along with the NHL’s sponsorships, a look at Coors Field in snowy Denver, Colorado is in order. Located two blocks from Union Station in Denver’s Lower Downtown (or LoDo) neighborhood, this stadium is home to baseball’s Colorado Rockies. Much like Busch Stadium, this venue has plenty of beer and food to get excited about. Selections include sushi, Rocky Mountain oysters, Rockie dogs, Denver dogs, Tucson dogs, vegetarian dogs and burgers, and of course all of the usual ball park items. Time of day might be an issue with the league at this location but hey, you never know. I’m a supporter of the Avalanche hosting and hockey being played beside the breathtaking Rocky Mountains.
Happy New Year all. Thank you for reading.
Be sure to check out other great articles at Game-Time Decision.