Monday, 16 May 2011

More Pennsylvania For New Year's Day

The ballpark to the left is Citizens Bank Ballpark found in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. If you have not yet heard, that location will be the site for the 2012 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic as the Philadelphia Flyers will host the New York Rangers in an Atlantic Division battle. I'm ok with the choice of having the Rangers, an Original Six team, play against one of the more successful teams from the Expansion Six in Philadelphia, but I think it's time to move off the eastern seaboard and start looking at other places for a Winter Classic extravaganza.

Let me make one thing clear: this should be a good game. Henrik Lundqvist, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan will lead the Rangers into Citizens Bank Ballpark to battle Chris Pronger, Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnall, and Claude Giroux, and that sounds like a great afternoon of hockey on NBC. Whenever the Flyers and Rangers battle, there's usually some pretty good hockey and a lot of big hits, so I'm ok with the choice of these two teams.

However, I think the NHL needs to start moving west again. The game in Chicago at Wrigley Field was awesome as the hockey-mad fans in Chicago made that game very memorable. So why not look at Minneapolis/St. Paul or Denver as the site of the next game?

First off, it's hard to have teams in the Winter Classic that aren't contending for playoff spots, and I get that. NBC is a business, and they want the advertising dollars associated with a great match-up. Minnesota and Colorado both missed the playoffs last season, so that's a tough sell for NBC if you consider that Minnesota's most intriguing opponent might be the Dallas Stars, another team that missed the playoffs. As for Colorado, they used to have a fierce rivalry with Detroit, but that has fizzled over the last few years as Detroit has remained a powerhouse while Colorado has been an NHL Draft Lottery team.

The one city that would have a great turn-out for the week leading up to and possibly the week after the Winter Classic, though, would be Minneapolis/St. Paul. I think the choice of the Wild hosting the game would be an excellent choice simply based on the hockey-crazy people of Minnesota. This is a city that not only embraces hockey as a winter sport, but actually promotes hockey as much as they promote the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. I've been there in the winter, and high school hockey is just as popular as the NHL is. The US Pond Hockey Championships alone should be enough to tell you that hockey is loved in the great state of Minnesota, and the movie Pond Hockey was filmed almost entirely in Minnesota.

So why not Minnesota? You would have great high school hockey games, a number of NCAA games, and the Wild playing an American team in close proximity like Chicago. Again, Dallas would be an intriguing opponent thanks to the Dallas franchise once being called the Minnesota North Stars, but it would all depend on scheduling and rivalries.

Could you imagine a weekend where the St. Cloud State Huskies, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, and the Bemidji State Beavers all battled against one another? Throw in the top high school teams battling on Wednesday and Thursday leading into a Sunday showcasing the Dallas Stars playing the Minnesota Wild and the Winter Classic would undoubtedly be a "classic" weekend in Minnesota. Heck, you can throw the University of North Dakota Sioux in the mix as well, and you'd have a hockey week that would literally be like heaven for any hockey fan!

I think the NHL and NBC should look at Minnesota for 2013's Winter Classic. Having spent a number of days there in the winter, I can tell you that hockey is taken very seriously in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and there should be a push to include more of the western cities. I'm not saying that places like Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul need to be visited every year, but it would be nice to see the Western Conference get a little more coverage in the NHL's featured game of the year.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


aqf said...

I once attended a conference in Minneapolis in the week between Christmas and New Years. For most of the 4 days we were there, the outdoor temperature didn't get above -40°.

Teebz said...

And that's exactly why it should be held there. Ice conditions would be perfect!

Dave said...

As a Canadian now living in Minneapolis I couldn't agree more with Teebz, the Twin Cities would do an outstanding job hosting a week long outdoor Winter Classic involving HS, College and the Wild. Only problem is that currently MN does not have the star power for it to play on NBC. It may happen 3-5 years from now but in the near future I expect the Classic will showcase Crosby, OV, NYR, Boston, Det, Philly, Chicago....

D.M.Vasso said...

As a phildelphia I'm glad to see that it's going to be in Philly; however, I do see your point. Minesota's weather conditions would be perfect for the winter classic. The Flyers played the winter classic two years ago against the Bruins, so I feel like another team should get a chance to play in this special game. I'm not actually sure how the NHL determines what teams are going to play the winter classic.

HockeyFanLand said...

I don't understand why the NHL continues to pick the same teams for a Winter classic? how about Toronto even?