2012 Winter Classic: NHL Looking to Philadelphia

Ken KraetzerCorrespondent IIMay 20, 2011

NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park
NHL Winter Classic at Fenway ParkJim McIsaac/Getty Images

The home of the Philadelphia Phillies, Citizens Bank Park is reported to be the front-runner site for the next NHL Winter Classic New Year's Weekend 2012.

Numerous reports have the New York Rangers heading to Philadelphia for the perennial outdoor event against the Flyers on January 2, 2012.  The NHL is apparently very interested in a "Winter Classic" game to be played in the New York City area, but Yankee Stadium, the preferred site, is committed to hosting the college football Pin Stripe Bowl the next several seasons around New Year's Day. 

Jesse Spector in the New York Daily News speculated that the NHL wants to have the Rangers participate in the game since they are the only one of the "Original Six" NHL teams which has yet to do so.

He also says the NHL wants the Rangers to play a team from another city to improve broadcast ratings. Playing at Citifield would necessitate inviting the Islanders and playing at the Meadowlands would force the NHL to have the Devils play the Rangers. To me either a Devils-Rangers or even Rangers-Islanders match-up sounds fine.  

The top stadium site for the 2012 game in Philadelphia would be the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Field which seats over 68,000 people, but the Eagles will be hosting Washington on January 1st in the last game of the NFL regular season.

For a nostalgia feel, wouldn't playing a game at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania be a great spot? This historic stadium dates back to 1895 and was rebuilt in 1922 in its current double deck configuration similar in feel to Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston.  The Army - Navy Game has been played there as well as several memorable Eagles playoff games.  The Penn Relays continue to bring big crowds to the stadium every spring. Franklin Field has not been used for professional games since the Eagles left for Veterans Stadium in the late 1960s, but was recently refurbished with bench seating for over 52,000.  The facility probably has not kept up on providing amenities like the vintage baseball stadiums have done, but would be ideal for a one time setting for a hockey game.  Its location near downtown Philadelphia would provide considerable community usage for skating. 

The Winter Classic has been a big hit on New Year's Day as an alternative to non-stop football. The game provides a "Currier and Ives" view of the hockey game played outdoors in the elements with hopefully just a little snow falling. The coaches are all wearing heavy coats and occasionally stylish fedoras while the fans in the stands bundle up like being at a winter football game. The players all reminisce about playing hockey all day on ponds in their youth. The outdoor hockey rinks set up for the NHL games have been a boon to college, high school, and youth hockey games played on the very same ice as professionals. Tickets for public skating sessions have also been in very high demand.

The challenge for the NHL is that the Winter Classic has become so successful it dwarfs attention paid to the NHL Playoffs and Finals often played in warm late-spring conditions.