Winter Classic Down South? John Collins Says NHL Is Not There Yet

Mark RitterSenior Writer IDecember 31, 2009

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 06:  Dan Craig, the Facilities Operations Manager for the National Hockey League poses outside the Winter Classic truck that contains the ice-making equipment for the Winter Classic taking place in Boston on New Years Day 2010, as the truck was parked at Rockefeller Center after it arrived in New York City on the way to Boston on December 6, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty images for the NHL)
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit in on a conversation with John Collins, Chief Operating Officer of the NHL. The topic du jour? The Winter Classic, where it is, where it’s going, and the process that NHL clubs endure to participate in the event.

When it comes to being considered as a host for the Winter Classic, every NHL team has the green light to put its best foot forward. One of the key components to the bid is getting the NHL clubs to understand what goes into the Classic and what they can expect. Collins stated that “We will look at each market on an individual basis and figure out whatever fits best.”

Clearly, the NHL is trying to create a level playing field for all teams, that said, on the surface, one has to believe that the “Gucci” teams such as the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have the inside track to host the 2011 Winter Classic.

Collins stated that the bidding process “was not intended to be the best bid wins.” Collins went on to say that the bids will be going out the first week of January and that the NHL will look to make a response “sometime after the Olympic break.”

This is the first time the NHL has gone to an official bidding process, this time, for not only the Winter Classic, but also a possible second game, which the NHL is now considering.

Perhaps the NHL is doing its due diligence to try to flush out some unique opportunities that they have missed, perhaps they just want to be completely transparent where the Winter Classic is concerned. One thing for sure, every NHL team would love the opportunity to host the Winter Classic, so let the bidding wars begin!

While New York, Toronto and, to some extent, a market like Minnesota look to be the odds-on favorites to host the next Winter Classic, there is bound to be some noise made by the NHL’s southern communities, such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, and perhaps a market like Florida.

With regards to a Winter Classic taking place in the deep southern regions and just how far the NHL can go, Collins stated, “We’re not even there yet. Totally valid point. All we’ve said...we’re continuing to to learn about the rink system. I was just out with Dan Craig [NHL facility operations manager], sort of asking him, ok, what do you know now? He’s learned a lot from operating it this year...the system gives us a lot more flexibility then we’ve ever had.”

Clearly, for the NHL, considering a site like Los Angeles, Florida, or Phoenix is still a bit of a pipe dream, but by all accounts, they are working on it. Hey, if you can put a man on the moon, you can make ice in Los Angeles on New Years day, right?

Until next time,

Peace!