NHL Winter Classic: Which Cities Should Host the Next 5 Games?
The NHL's annual Winter Classic has been bringing in casual fans of the game since its inception in 2008. It gives hockey a national spotlight it rarely sees at any other point in the season. So what cities deserve to host this massive spectacle over the next several years?
This year's Classic was set to be the biggest yet, with over 100,000 fans expected for the game at Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Its cancellation, as Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports pointed out, was devastating:
It would have been the most lucrative event in league history; the one moment every season when the NHL gets it right, in the eyes of even the most ardent cynics in the U.S. sports media.
With that said, we're going to take a look at five cities (ranked in order of most deserving) who should be given the chance to host this hockey gala in the years to come, while also predicting what the possible matchup in the game would be.
Since this season's game has been scrapped, the NHL has already announced that the next Winter Classic will still be held at the Big House with the Leafs playing the Wings.
But starting in 2015, the location of the New Year's Day game is up for grabs.
So where better to hold it than the largest city in the country of hockey's birthplace?
It's puzzling that the NHL hasn't held this event in Canada yet. Especially Toronto, a city more than equipped to host something of this magnitude.
The likely venue would be the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The ability to coordinate the Winter Classic with the Hockey Hall of Fame should not be lost on the league either. Much like they planned in Detroit, they could have a couple of weeks worth of activities leading up to the game.
Likely Matchup: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
2. New York City
A more predictable selection, although not necessarily as deserving, would be New York City.
The Winter Classic is really about ratings and exposure for both the NHL and NBC. Having the largest TV market in the United States host the game within the next couple years seems like a foregone conclusion.
Yankee Stadium would most certainly be the NHL's first choice as a venue. And as of 2014, the agreement to hold college football bowl games there expires.
The most interesting question, though, that will arise when NYC is awarded this event is who will the New York Rangers play?
You'd think NBC would prefer to include another market in the game, which would eliminate the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils from contention. Plus, neither of those teams are a big draw from a national standpoint anyway.
Likely Matchup: Los Angeles Kings vs. New York Rangers
As we continue through this list, realize that just because these cities should get a Winter Classic doesn't mean they actually will.
Montreal is a perfect example of this.
Their likely venue would be Molson Stadium (home to the CFL's Montreal Alouettes). It's on the smaller side, with a 25,000-seat capacity for football.
Also, NBC would be reluctant, regardless of the location, to agree to have the game played in Canada.
However, it would be an opportunity for them to really focus on the history of hockey and the tradition behind it. Airing an entire day of NHL programming preceding faceoff would be an opportune time to celebrate arguably the greatest rivalry in NHL history.
Plus, NBC would still get that big American market it so desperately craves. It could also partner with CBC to make it a truly international event.
Likely Matchup: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul
When it comes to hockey in the United States, few places are as passionate about the game as the state of Minnesota is.
The fact they were without an NHL team for seven seasons is a travesty NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will never be able to justify.
Obviously, one of the biggest considerations in hosting a Winter Classic is the climate.
The possibility of another "snow game," similar to the inaugural one in Buffalo in 2008, should be something the league aims for. Dealing with the elements on the ice will only increase the entertainment value, especially for TV viewers.
With that said, Minneapolis-St. Paul is the perfect location weather-wise for that sort of environment.
The likely venue would be TCF Bank Stadium, located on the campus of the University of Minnesota. It was designed to support future expansion that could seat close to 80,000 people, making it a prime candidate for the New Year's Day event.
Likely Matchup: St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild
The only real viable West Coast, NHL city for the Winter Classic is Vancouver.
After the success of the 2010 Winter Olympics, it's a logical choice. It would appease Western Canadian hockey fans and, from a TV standpoint, would make more sense than Calgary or Edmonton.
Now again, NBC would prefer somewhere like Washington D.C. or St. Louis to draw in two American markets. But the ratings those cities would garner doesn't equate to them deserving the game more.
Hockey is inherently Canadian, something the NHL seems to forget at times.
So "throwing a bone" their way by involving them in the Winter Classic, not just as participants but also as hosts, will go a long way in maintaining the harmony between the league and our Northern neighbors.
BC Place, which held the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games, would be a great venue. The fact it has a retractable roof would also allow the game to keep the outdoor feel it needs.
Likely Matchup: San Jose Sharks vs. Vancouver Canucks