Here are my five matchups and locations I think would work well for the 2010 Winter Classic. These ideas (except for one) are probably not too far fetched than what me say see on Jan 1, 2010.
5. Capitals vs Penguins @ Beaver Stadium
Beaver Stadium is home to the Penn State college football team in Pennsylvania, also known as Happy Valley. The capacity is right around 110,000
Why: The Penguins and Capitals are still in the early stages of renewing a somewhat old rivalry, which really began to take flight again when the whole Crosby vs Ovechkin comparisons took place after they were drafted and now the Malkin vs Ovechkin beef plus the Alex Semin trash talk of Sidney Crosby. Both teams are exciting to watch and usually put on a good show and both teams are filled with young and exciting stars – from Alexander Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom on the Capitals to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, MA Fleury and Ryan Whitney on the Penguins. I think all of that should go without saying to most hockey fans.
Both clubs play in solid hockey markets and both have a solid foundation of history in the NHL and would easily attract fans from all angles.
And to top it all off, this would easily break the record for attendance at an outdoor hockey game.
4. Flyers vs Capitals @ Citizens Bank Park
Citizens Bank Park is home to the Philadelphia Phillies MLB team. The capacity is right around 45,000
Why: This is another renewed rivalry on the horizon which all started back in the first round of the playoffs last season. Both teams are two offensive juggernauts that have shown to play some very entertaining high scoring affairs. Both teams are very marketable, and both markets are two of the major US sports markets (and great hockey markets), so this matchup has no problem attracting a big audience.
And what better place to have it than right across the parking lot from where the Flyers usually play?
3. Bruins vs Rangers @ New Yankee Stadium
The new Yankee Stadium is set to open some time in April of 2009. The capacity will be right around 60,000
Why: The NHL is trying to restore the original 6 brand in the NHL and America, and they need to strike while the iron is hot (they nailed the Wings and Hawks perfectly on Jan 1). There is no better timing than to capitalize on the Rangers and especially the Bruins success which will carry over until next year for the 2010 Classic. Both teams have a storied rivalry, and both cities are a traditional rival in all sports. Both cities are huge sporting markets with big fanbases, and the new Yankee Stadium would play the same role as Wrigley did, by the name alone which will draw the casual fan.
2. Bruins vs Canadiens @ Fenway Park
Fenway Park is home to the Boston Red Sox MLB team. Capacity is just over 37,000
Why: This one speaks for itself. Arguably the greatest historical rivalry in the NHL being played at the most historic ballpark (in my opinion) in America. If there is going to be a game played in Boston next year, it must be Habs vs Bruins, nothing else. I understand the Habs played in the Heritage Classic 5 years ago and the NHL is trying to market US based teams right now in the Classics, but come on, who wouldn’t want to see this?
The sightlines at this park would be fantastic for hockey. Just think about all the legendary old timers that would come out for this one as well. This would be a magical day for hockey fans first and foremost, and that’s where part of the problem lye’s in Bettmans eyes, so I doubt we’d see this matchup in the foreseeable future.
1. USA vs Canada Exhibition @ Spartan Stadium
Spartan Stadium is the football stadium for the Michigan State Spartans. Capacity is 75,000
Why: That’s right, you read it correctly. Canada vs USA outdoor exhibition 1.5 months before the Olympic games in Vancouver is my number 1 choice. Some may think this does nothing for the NHL, but you couldn’t be more wrong. All players who would play in this are NHL players, and country vs country always attracts monster crowds. It was Bettmans idea to allow NHL players to play in the Olympics to help promote NHL players in the first place, so I think it’s time for Bettman to finally put the horse before the wagon and promote the game instead of his league first. This would be great overall exposure and buildup for hockey, and especially for the Olympic games. And it can only help the NHL in the long run.
I chose Spartan Stadium because this Stadium has already hosted an outdoor college hockey game between Michigan and Michigan St, so we know it works. Plus Michigan is not too far from Canada.
Close calls: Penguins vs Flyers, Rangers vs Devils or Islanders, Wild vs Stars, Avalanche vs Sharks