Ten Venues The NHL Needs To Consider For The NHL’s Winter Classic:

February 18th, 2010 2 Comments

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

Thus far, we have witnessed some of the most beloved franchises in NHL history play at some very impressive venues. Last years tilt between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings held at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago was probably my favorite event as it showcased the up and coming Blackhawks versus the veteran laden Red Wings, two of the NHL’s most entertaining franchises.

I think when we talk about the Winter Classic it is important for the NHL to consider the teams that will be involved. A teams style of play comes into consideration as well, nobody wants to watch two defensive teams battle it out when it’s minus ten outside and nobody is interested in witnessing two bottom feeding teams play for 60 minutes either.

With that in mind, when considering which opponents should participate in the Winter Classic each year, the NHL must be cognizant of which teams not only will garner great fan interest and ratings, but also which teams will potentially be amongst the NHL’s best that season.

Star power is also a consideration. When Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin played the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo at Ralph Wilson Stadium the NHL was able to showcase two of the League’s most visible stars, two players that can light the lamp at any given time, two players that are vital to the NHL’s marketing effort’s.

Over the past few years many NHL fans have bandied about different locales for the Winter Classic. It would appear as if the NHL will be looking at some less traditional markets down the road, as well as more of the historic football and Baseball stadiums.

Clearly, there are numerous sites that the NHL may consider for the Winter Classic, ten venues hardly scratches the surface. With that in mind, don’t take this list as “gospel”, merely one educated NHL fans perspective on where the NHL may be looking. Without further adieu, in no particular order, let’s take a look at ten venues the NHL should consider hosting the Winter Classic at in the near future.

The resurgence of Hockey in Minnesota is reason enough for the NHL to consider hosting a Winter Classic, but when you consider the beauty of TCF Stadium and the potential 50, 805 spectator’s that could enjoy it; well, you just have to give the Minnesota Wild a shot.

TCF Stadium opened on Sept. 12, 2009 and features the third-largest outdoor scoreboard in all of college football, one that is 48 feet high by 108 feet wide, which includes the most up to date high definition LED video display technology. There are 37 premium suites, 57 loge boxes, 259 seats in the indoor club and 1,250 seats in the outdoor club at TCF Bank Stadium, which should suit the NHL’s “Gucci crowd” just fine.

Opposing teams for the Minnesota Wild may include the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars or the Colorado Avalanche from the Western Conference or the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Rangers from the East.

The site of the 1984 summer Olympic’s, California’s Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has a capacity of 92,000. The only issue facing the NHL with regard to hosting a Winter Classic at this venue is that it does not have the coveted skyboxes and suites that many NHL sponsors enjoy and demand at said events.

The NHL’s popularity is at an all-time high in California and Los Angeles is the second largest television market in the Uniteds States. I do believe the outdoor temperatures may cause the ice makers some problems, but I suspect if we can send a crew to the moon we can make ice in L.A., right? Let’s face it, it would be quite a coo if the NHL could pull off an event like the Winter Classic in the warm temperatures of California.

Possible opponents for the Los Angeles Kings may include the New York Rangers- having the two biggest TV markets face-off, the San Jose Sharks- making it an all-Los Angeles event or perhaps the Florida Panthers- making it the “battle of the beach!”

A number of Original Six franchises have had their chance to participate in a Winter Classic. One of the franchises that has been left out thus far is the legendary Toronto Maple Leafs.

Say what you will about the Leafs’ struggles since they last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, the Leafs fill buildings and that is very attractive to the NHL. With that in mind, rather than having the Leafs host a Winter Classic I would suggest the Leafs take their popularity on the road, somewhere like Yankee Stadium in New York.

As I previously mentioned, New York is the largest TV market in the United States and with the Maple Leafs popularity being so high, I suspect this event would garner the biggest TV ratings in NHL history.

This event is bullet-proof, even those fans that hate the Leafs would tune into the game in hopes that the Blue and White would get pasted by the Rangers and New Yorkers will support anything that has to do with the Yankees.

Yankee Stadium does not hold the historic value it once did, but it is one the most beautiful stadiums out there and this event could be one of many that could help set the course on new Yankee Stadiums history. At any rate, the Winter Classic in New York would be one to remember, one for the ages, albeit, new ages.

No question about it, if the NHL is hosting a Winter Classic in New York it’s got to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, no other NHL teams need apply…well, maybe the New York Islanders, that would be a beauty as well!

Home of the Nittany Lions Big Ten Conference college football team, Beaver Stadium is the largest football stadium in the United States and has a seating capacity of 107,282.

Located in Pennsylvania on the campus of Penn State University, Beaver Stadium would be sure to be a terrific location for the NHL to host a Winter Classic. Clearly, if the NHL were to host a Winter Classic in Pennsylvania the opponents would have to be the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers.

The all-Pennsylvania lineup may not impress every NHL fan but the support from Penguin and Flyers fans would be off the hook and considering the historic rivalry these two teams have shared, you have to believe this game would be an epic battle.

Mile High Stadium was known in NFL circles as the loudest football stadium in NFL history. Many a quarterback had trouble calling out their audible and, in some cases, their inability to do so cost them the football game. Just how loud can it get in Denver? On October 1st, 2000, Denver Broncos fans sustained the world’s loudest roar, with a reading of 128.74 decibels, beating the previous world record by 3.34 decibels. That’s loud folks!

Mile High Stadium is gone, but the passion from the Denver fans still exists, only now the Broncos play at Invesco Field. The picturesque view from the stadium is in itself impressive, but when you consider the location, the passion the fans have for their beloved Colorado Avalanche and Invesco Fields 76,125 seating capacity, you have a great opportunity for the NHL to showcase the resurgent Av’s.

Possible opponents may include the hated Detroit Red Wings, the equally hated Dallas Stars, the Edmonton Oilers or perhaps the Washington Capitals, featuring the likes of Alex Ovechkin to help sell the event to the people of Colorado. Either way, I suspect this would be a very successful event.

Also known as “the horseshoe”, Ohio State Stadium is another mega-structure the NHL might consider hosting the Winter Classic at. Located in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State Stadium can hold in excess of 102,000 football fans.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are an emerging NHL team. Now that they have signed Rick Nash to a healthy contract extension Blue Jacket fans can expect this club to compete for a playoff spot for the next decade.

Possible opponents for the Blue Jackets include the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings and the Nashville Predators.

Located in England, Wembley Stadium is not on the surface a great venue for an outdoor game, especially when you consider every seat in the Stadium is covered, but the NHL may very well make an exception when you consider the impact hosting the Winter Classic on European soil may have down the road.

To be fair, hosting the Winter Classic in England is not likely to be a part of the NHL’s agenda for at least another decade, but with expansion to Europe looking more and more like a real possibility the NHL may chose to make the investment of playing this unique event at Wembley.

Wembley Stadium holds 90,000 fans and has already hosted ice-skating for the public, so the NHL knows it can make ice there. One would have to think, given England’s roots in Canada that this event may be best suited for two Canadian teams to face-off, perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens, the English versus the French!

Toronto’s Rogers Centre is of course actually a dome stadium. That said, the roof does retract and, with a little TLC, could be transformed into a great event. Toronto is a mecca for hockey, housing some of the most loyal fans on the planet and, by all accounts, would be an exceptional host for the Winter Classic.

Any event in Toronto would of course have to feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and my vote would be for the Leafs to play the Montreal Canadiens. A domed Stadium offers a bit of security for the League and could avert disaster if a major snowstorm arrived to spoil the event. That said, I would want the roof retracted, as I suspect every hockey fan would.

The idea of hosting multiple teams at the Winter Classic has been bandied around and Toronto may be one location that could facilitate what I foresee as being an all-day event, featuring all six Original Six teams facing off on the same day.

In this scenario a game could be played at 1:00, 5:00 and 9:00, allowing all time-zones to take part in the event and allowing traditional NHL fans to go back in their minds to yesteryear when the NHL featured just six teams.

The other two games may feature the New York Rangers facing the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins facing the Detroit Red Wings. Can you imagine the interest from former players and NHL icons? The ceremonies would be incredible, not to mention the tie-in form old to new.

Don Cherry would have to be in attendance, with the great Bobby Orr at his side, of course!

Lambeau Field opened it’s doors in 1957 and just like the Chevy, it’s a classic! Lambeau is the home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and has hosted some of the coldest football games in NFL history.

No doubt about it, New Years Day at Lambeau could prove to be a huge test for the players. The playing surface at Lambeau is often referred to as “the frozen tundra”, you don’t get a nickname like that without earning it, and it’s safe to say the ice will be great in Green Bay.

Lambeau holds close to 73,000 spectators and, while not a traditional NHL market, could draw from Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit and Columbus. Possible opponents may include the Minnesota Wild, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Located in Fair Park, Dallas, Texas, the Cotton Bowl is as historic as any venue in professional sports. Obviously most of it’s historic roots come from hosting the classic Cotton Bowl college football game, one which hardly needs an introduction.

In 2010 the Cotton Bowl football game will be played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, leaving the door wide open for the NHL to host the Winter Classic at the Cotton Bowl.

Texas is a top-five television market and despite the odds, has always supported the NHL well. Possible opponents for the Dallas Stars include the Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers.

As long as they are serving pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ chicken and some spicy chili, I am soooooooo there! An appearance by the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders wouldn’t hurt either…

Winnipeg’s “Canad Inns Stadium” (formerly Winnipeg Stadium) is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For those of you that remember, the Winnipeg Jets were once a part of the NHL and, given the amount of interest coming out of the Province for an expansion franchise, I suspect the people of Winnipeg would be thrilled to help the NHL host a Winter Classic.

Holding the event at the Canad Inns Stadium would offer NHL fans a more intimate setting then what the NHL has traditionally be vying for, something the NHL may be drawn towards once the flash of trying to set attendance records wears off.

The Canad Stadium holds 29,533 for football games, but could possibly be pushed upwards of 44,000 if need be. That said, an intimate setting has a certain allure to it, one that many NHL traditionalist may be attracted to.

Possible opponents for this site may include the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Canadiens. A Canadian team would be a must with the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings getting consideration from South of the boarder.

***Check This out: Hockey Podcast “Get The Puck Out”: Featuring Louis Pisano and myself interviewing legendary Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltender Johnny Bower…Hit the link!

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/4027353

2 Comments

  1. Kipper says:

    Kings vs. the Sharks would make it an “all LA event”? Really? Did you confuse the Sharks with the Ducks, or just conveniently forget the 400 miles between San Jose and LA?

  2. MarkRitter says:

    Perhaps it should have read “all California”, but you are really reaching to find somehting to complain about…get out much?

Leave a Reply