Friday, January 7, 2011

Where next for the NHL's Winter Classic?

Trying to predict where the NHL's Winter Classic outdoor hockey game will be played the following season is almost as fun as watching the game.

The past four years, it's been played in the Buffalo Bills' Ralph Wilson Stadium, Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway Park in Boston and Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Where next? The logistics are as big an issue as anything.


It's usually played on New Year's Day. In 2012, Jan. 1 is a Sunday. There is no way the NHL is going head-to-head with the NFL. Plus, it wouldn't have the option of playing at night because NBC, which televises the Classic, will be showing the last game of the NFL regular season. Jan. 2 is the holiday observed for New Year's, so that's when it will most likely face off.


- Yankee Stadium: It hosted the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30. The college football game would have to be played a week earlier or a week later to allow time to set up the rink.

- Michigan Stadium, Beaver Stadium, Ohio Stadium, etc.: The problem with Big Ten stadiums is that the conference is tied into five New Year's Day bowl games, which cuts into the potential audience. Even if 100,00-plus hockey die-hards show up, you would need staff to work the game. That would be a tough sell. The other problem in Columbus is that it needs a good team that people would want to see on TV. The Blue Jackets aren't cutting it.

- NFL stadiums: As long as the football team doesn't mind playing on the road in Week 17, as the Steelers did this year.

- Canadian teams: No way. NBC wants American teams in big markets or with big stars.

- Rose Bowl: It was actually tossed out as a rumored site on the Internet. I believe the stadium is booked that day. I had to include it for a laugh.

So where does it go? FedEx Field in Landover, Md., for another Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin sounds like a winner. Perhaps New Meadowlands Stadium for the Devils and Rangers? Or maybe Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for the Flyers against the Penguins or Capitals? Or Invesco Field in Denver for the Avalanche and ... somebody?

- Howard Primer

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