The NHL announced earlier this week that next season’s Winter Classic will be played on Jan. 1, 2011, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, where the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Washington Capitals.
A second outdoor game will also be played on Feb. 20 when the Calgary Flames will host the Montreal Canadiens at McMahon Stadium.
Two games in one season might seem like overkill, because it is.
Pittsburgh’s strong fan base, coupled with its even stronger TV ratings, has earned the Penguins a second shot at a Winter Classic. Washington is an obvious choice as the Pens’ opponent, as their rivalry has quickly become one of the best in all of sports.
The second game will pale in comparison to the hype the first game will receive, at least in the United States.
Montreal against Calgary will spark an all-out war north of the border. While the Canadian appeal is obvious, the league’s choice for the second game got me thinking of some other possibilities we could have seen instead—and probably will see in the near future.
Once you’re done reading, feel free to tell me where you would like to see a Winter Classic in the future!
Despite finishing 13th overall in the Western Conference with a 38-36-8 record, the Minnesota Wild still averaged a full stadium and then some for all of their 41 home games this season.
For hockey games, the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn, holds 18,064 fans. The Wild managed to draw an average of 18,415 fans per night—the Toronto Maple Leafs were the only team with a worse record than Minnesota to draw a bigger crowd.
Minnesota’s brand new Target Field would be perfect for a Winter Classic.
The Los Angeles Kings we be a good choice for an opponent because they are establishing themselves as a great young franchise in the West.
Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, and Dustin Brown are quickly becoming NHL royalty, and led the Kings to their first playoff appearance since 2001.
The Air Canada Centre in downtown Toronto holds 18,800 fans for Maple Leafs’ games.
This past season, the Air Canada Centre averaged 19,260 fans for all 41 Leafs’ games—this figure is all the more impressive seeing as the Leafs finished dead last in the Eastern Conference with just 30 wins and 74 points.
Toronto fans are among the NHL’s elite and have been for some time now. They absolutely deserve a Winter Classic.
The Ottawa Senators would provide the “Battle for Canada” scenario, similar to the one fans will get to see in February when the Flames host the Habs.
Not to mention, it would be nice to see a captain like Daniel Alfredsson get a crack at a Winter Classic.
For those of you who watched the Winter Olympics, you should be very familiar with BC Place Stadium, which held the opening and closing ceremonies.
BC Place Stadium is currently undergoing renovations and might not be finished until the end of 2011. However, the major renovation is a retractable roof, which would make the stadium perfect for a Winter Classic.
With a capacity of 60,000, BC Place boasts an immense size, but an appropriate size nonetheless, especially for the Vancouver Canucks and their fans, who, like the Wild, managed to sellout General Motors Place well above its capacity.
The Sedin Twins, along with Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo, would surely draw a nice TV audience, but throw Joe Thornton and the San Jose Sharks into the mix, and the numbers would be great.
The only reason the Boston Bruins get a second game would be because I’d like to see the New York-Boston rivalry continue at Yankee Stadium.
However, according to early rumors, Citi Field—home to the New York Mets—has better sightlines for a hockey game, giving it a better chance of getting selected for a Winter Classic.
But this is my list, so this game is getting played at the much more impressive, and even more expensive, Yankee Stadium ($1.5 billion construction cost—nauseating, isn’t it?).
On top of the ever-present New York-Boston rivalry at the stadium, this would also be an Original Six matchup, just giving the NHL another reason to turn this game from an NHL fan’s dream into a reality.
The New Meadowlands Stadium has not seen its first NFL game yet, and already it has been crowned home of Super Bowl XLVIII—so why not add one more big game to the list?
If sold out, its massive capacity of 82,566 would make the $1.6 billion (aren’t we in a recession?) Meadowlands the record-holder for the highest attended hockey game ever.
The record was actually set earlier this month at the IIHF World Championships, where a crowd of 77,803 watched host Germany take down the United States 2-1.
The New Jersey Devils, despite having trouble with attendance at home, have consistently been one of the league’s best team over the last 15 seasons.
The Chicago Blackhawks would get another Winter Classic because right now, there is no team in the league that would draw a larger TV rating than the youthful Hawks.