NHL Winter Classic: Top 10 Venues for Next Year's Game and Beyond

Mike MacDonaldCorrespondent IDecember 30, 2010

NHL Winter Classic: Top 10 Venues for Next Year's Game and Beyond

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The Winter Classic has become a event like no other in North American professional sports.

    Once a season, the NHL plays a game in the outdoor conditions in their best attempt to recreate the origins of the sport of hockey. The Winter Classic game counts in the NHL's regular season standings and statistics.

    Since it's original game played on January 1, 2008 in Buffalo, New York—the NHL has continued the trend and added the Winter Classic to its regular season schedule ever since.

    Most recently, an outdoor game was played in Edmonton, Alberta on November 22, 2003 as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3. The event was called the Heritage Classic.

    The game was played in front of 57,000 fans in frigid temperatures. This season the Calgary Flames will host the Montreal Canadiens in February for a second Heritage Classic to be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

    This season the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Washington Capitals at Heinz Field on January 1, 2011.

    Heinz Field is home to the professional football's Pittsburgh Steelers and was completed in time for the Steelers to begin play for the 2001 NFL season. The stadium's steel design reflects the steel industrial history of the city of Pittsburgh and is located on the city's waterfront.

    This modern football stadium will serve as the backdrop for this year's NHL Winter Classic presented by Bridgestone.

    The Winter Classic has been played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway Park in Boston and Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

    At this time the 2012 Winter Classic location and teams have not been finalized.

    The following are my top 10 venues for next season's games.

New York City, NY: Yankee Stadium

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    First it was Wrigley Field in Chicago, and then last season's Winter Classic in Boston was held at Fenway Park, so it would be natural to think that Yankee Stadium could be a good bet to host the 2012 or later Winter Classic.

    I'm sure the rivals from New York would love an outdoor game of their own, and this new version of a New York City icon would be an excellent venue to host the capacity crowds and add to the Winter Classic feel.

    As far a baseball stadiums go, this might be the one of the nicer settings to host a Winter Classic.

    The potential is there for the New York Rangers. They could possibly play the Boston Bruins, New York Islanders or Buffalo Sabres, to name only a few potential opponents.

    A major market like New York would be ideal for the NHL to continue there Winter Classic tradition.

Toronto, ON: BMO Field

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    Toronto would love nothing more than a Winter Classic to call its own.

    The city has a beautiful soccer stadium within city limits that would be an ideal candidate for the Winter Classic.

    This 22,000-seat stadium could provide something the Winter Classic has had only once before at Fenway Park, intimate surroundings.

    This cozy field would allow the game to be closer to fans, provide great props and be transformed into a winter wonderland.

Minneapolis, MN: TCF Bank Stadium

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    One of the newest stadiums in college football, TCF Bank Stadium would be another perfect venue to host the Winter Classic.

    TCF Bank Stadium is the new home to University of Minnesota football program.

    This stadium presently can accommodate over 50,000 fans for football, and with the typical Minnesota winter as a back drop, this stadium would be another ideal setting for this yearly event.

    The stadium was built in a "horseshoe" design and could be further expanded in the upcoming years to have over 80,000 fans for football.

Los Angeles, CA: Home Depot Center

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    Not your most ideal place for a "winter" classic, but the NHL Winter Classic could very well be an interesting idea for Southern California.

    With the ice-making technology allowing ice makers to basically make ice anywhere, why not have a winter-themed event in California?

    With a nighttime back drop to help the ice hide form the sun, this would be a great experience.

    The Los Angeles Kings have played in Las Vegas before, and if the event was planned for an evening with fake snow and great Hollywood props, the Winter Classic would be a dynamite experience.

Nashville, TN: LP Field

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    Nashville's hockey fans are underrated.

    LP Field would provide a great venue to host a Winter Classic and allow Nashville to display its hockey pride to the world.

    LP Field is home to the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

    This stadium has a capacity of 70,000 and Music City would certainly fill it to the rim.

Atlanta, GA: Georgia Dome

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    With the struggles of attendance at Atlanta Thrashers games this season, one may think it's foolish to have the Winter Classic staged in Georgia.

    With the Georgia Dome being an inclosed stadium, the Thrashers could certainly create a winter wonderland with its massive structure.

    The dome has hosted several sporting events during its tenure, and having a hockey game would certainly be a first.

    Home to the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Dome might be one of the best-kept secrets at attempting to create a magical game. The Stadium has a capacity of 28,000 for basketball, which could allow different rink set-ups.

    The Thrashers are an exciting team to watch, and this might be a great way to provide the area with a gem of a game.

    This would be a long shot, at best, but maybe there's some way in the future for this to work out.

Denver, CO: Dick's Sporting Goods Center

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    Think of the Los Angeles site in Carson, California, or the BMO Field in Toronto for a minute, and you'll see that the use of some of North American soccer stadiums might be an attractive fit for an outside NHL game.

    Denver has certainly embraced the Nordiques since they arrived to Denver in 1995, and in Commerce City Colorado, a suburb of Denver, there is a very nice soccer stadium.

    Dick's Sporting Goods Park is a 18,000-seat open air stadium built for soccer, but has hosted events such as concerts and international soccer friendly matches.

    This stadium is state of the art in its technology. Add a sunny winter Colorado day, and this might be another great venue for the NHL Winter Classic.

Detroit, MI: Comerica Park

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    The Red Wings have played in one Winter Classic, but hosting one would be even greater for the city.

    Comerica Park is located downtown in Detroit, and along with Ford Field located next door, is part of a trend to revamp Detroit's downtown.

    Comerica Park is home to the MLB's Detroit Tigers, and I can only think of what a Winter Classic would have been like in Tiger Stadium. Well, Comerica is the next best thing.

    Hopefully Detroit will get its due to host a Winter Classic.

East Rutherford, NJ: New Meadowlands Stadium

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    New Meadowland Stadium is a wonderful football facility. Why not host the Winter Classic there as well?

    This new stadium has many advantages to host the Winter Classic. It could be used to host not one Winter Classic, but two Winter Classic games.

    A doubleheader of action! Not a bad idea considering the three New York City metro area teams. Adding a fourth team would be easy enough.

    Just a thought.

Dallas, TX: Cowboys Stadium

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    Jerry Jones' creation could be on savvy place to hold a hockey game.

    Cowboys Stadium is one of the most dynamic football stadiums to be built in some time. The $1.15 billion stadium hosts football games, concerts, boxing matches and other events.

    Allowing the NHL to host a Winter Classic in Big D would be a wonderful event.

    Although this might be a long shot, if Jerry Jones gets on board, there is no telling where he would take this.

And Beyond...

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    Dylan Lynch/Getty Images

    Call the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic what you will. They are celebrations of hockey and its roots. They also allow people from all over North America to experience the setting of a game played outdoors.

    We all know the commercial side of these things, money and exposure being the prime reasons, but allowing access to a different place and time to see the game in another format is priceless.

    For places like Minnesota, Colorado and Detroit, the Winter Classic is a reminder of a game in a different time—a reward for the contributions that they have given to hockey.

    For places like Los Angeles and Dallas, a glimpse for fans to experience the tradition the game has to forge new memories and grow the game even more.

    There are many more places that should host a Winter Classic than these. I would truly love to see a makeshift arena built and played on real ice. A frozen pond...

    I think I will go rent Mystery, Alaska.