10 Most Likely Sites For The NHL Winter Classic

Tim KingCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2011

10 Most Likely Sites For The NHL Winter Classic

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    Now that we've proven the NHL Winter Classic is more than a passing fad and has become a marketing monster, it's time to gaze into the snow globe and see where the game might be headed in the future. 

    We've already seen it can be played in classic old baseball parks, wintery football stadiums and a less-than-frosty home of a Super Bowl champ. 

    Every NHL team wants this spotlight to be shone on them, but not all should get it.  Not all have the facilities, the weather, fan support and likely weather conditions to make this event go.

    But here are a list of places that the NHL can't afford to pass up.  A couple are no-brainers and a couple more are going to require thought. 

    Maybe the NHL won't get to all of them but the league would pass on most of them at their own peril.

Invesco Field at Mile High: Denver, Colo.

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    Time to take the game into the real dead of winter and into the Western Conference.  The Colorado Avalanche are well positioned in the community and have all of the tools at their disposal to make this happen. 

    A game against the up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings might also draw West Coast viewers in a more favorable time slot. The 76,000+ seating capacity is just about perfect, as was proven in Pittsburgh. 

    Chance of Happening:  Next year is not too soon.

TCF Bank Stadium: Minneapolis

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    Nowhere is skating on a frozen pond more part of the culture in the US than in Minnesota.  While the Wild management struggles with internal matters, they have a brand new, world class facility almost begging to be frozen over. 

    The seating capacity of this on-campus facility would be on the smallish side compared to the ticket demand, but this is a venue that just about cries out for the Classic.

    Chances:  Only a matter of time.

Yankee Stadium: New York City

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    This is the site television executives had dreamed of when the event was first on the storyboard. 

    It would have hosted the 2011 Winter Classic had the Steinbrenners not gone and signed a multi-year deal to host a college football bowl game played the same week as the hockey game. 

    If ESPN gets involved in the hockey contract next year and moves the date of the Winter Classic, this could happen in 2012.  Otherwise, this gets shuffled to the bottom of the deck.

    Chances of Happening:  One of these years, but probably not next year.

Michigan Stadium: Ann Arbor, Mich.

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    The Detroit Red Wings are one of the more storied franchises in the NHL and its only a matter of time before they have a chance to host this game.  Ford Field was miserable for the Frozen Four and Comerica is too small for a hockey mad town.

    But right down the road is the most interesting candidate to date:  Michigan Stadium.  The stadium already holds the record for the largest hockey crowd ever at over 113,000 and has said that it can support another event of that size without difficulty. 

    At an hour from downtown Detroit, this is almost a no-brainer

    Chances of Happening:  Count on it. 

FedEx Field: Washington, DC

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    After the over-the-top success of this year's Winter Classic, it is only a matter of time until the NHL can't resist putting its two best players on frozen pond at the same time.

    Capitals owner Ted Leonsis was floored by the spectacle of the game at Heinz Field and would do it tomorrow if he could. 

    If he can get Redskins owner Dan Snyder, the City of Washington and all of the bureaucrats therein on the same page. he'll get his rematch.

    Chances of Happening:  2013 would not be soon enough.

Lincoln Financial Field: Philadelphia

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    The Philadelphia Flyers were stand-ins for the Washington Capitals in 2010 but could get their crack at the game in the not too distant future.  One of the biggest corporate backers of the concept, Comcast,  is also the majority owner of the franchise. 

    But while Comcast has its eyes on the Winter Classic, its idea of the perfect site for the game is not the home of the Eagles nor the Phillies. It will take the game here if it can't have its dream.

    Chances of Happening:  Everything is in place except the ownership's heart. 

Busch Stadium: St. Louis, Mo.

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    Back to the baseball park concept of the game for this trip to the Midwest.  Playing in the shadow of the Arch would be a great TV scene-setter. 

    Blues President John Davidson knows a good TV concept when he sees it, but might want to hold off a year or two while his team and organization grow into potential contenders. 

    St. Louis has been one of the most stable of the second six NHL franchises and could put on a great show. 

    Chances of Happening:  Somewhere around the middle of the pack.  Call us in 2015.

New Meadowlands Stadium: East Rutherford, N.J.

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    Its good enough for the Super Bowl, but is it good enough for the Winter Classic.  The NHL and its partners really, REALLY have their hearts set on Yankee Stadium, but they can't wait on the Yankees forever. 

    For a million TV reasons, this game will be played in New York at some point and the NHL isn't going to wait for its invitation to the Bronx forever. 

    Chances of Happening:  How about the year after the Super Bowl or the year after next? Take your pick.

Lambeau Field: Green Bay, Wisc.

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    This is the longest shot on the list, mainly because no NHL team calls Green Bay home.  But don't count this one entirely out after the wild success of the Winter Classic in Wrigley Field.

    Logistics could be a problem on any given year and the infrastructure of Green Bay just might not be enough to handle the out of town crowds the game would draw with a pair of out of town teams. 

    Still, this is a TV-driven event which makes the sight of Patrick Kane skating across the frozen tundra not completely out of the question.

    Chances of Happening:  The slimmest of the group, but not out of the question.

Beaver Stadium: University Park, Pa.

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    If it were up to the Philadelphia Flyers this game would have happened already.  Trouble is Gary Bettman isn't hot on the idea of moving the game out of a metropolitan area and there isn't the hockey infrastructure to support the game just yet. 

    But minds can be changed, a varsity hockey program is on the way in 2013 and another stadium expansion is on the horizon so all of the pieces to this puzzle are going to fall into place, just later than sooner. 

    How many crowds of over 100,000 can the NHL handle?

    Chances of Happening:  Maybe next to last on the list.  2017 or 2018 sounds about right.