Saturday, January 2, 2010

Rosie's Rebounds: Future of the Winter Classic




From the awe of the actual atmosphere at Fenway Park, to Marco Sturm’s game winning goal in overtime, the 2010 Winter Classic between the Bruins and Flyers was everything that a hockey fan could possibly dream of.

From the hype that began in July with the official announcement, to the first skate at Fenway, to the days leading up to the event and to January 1, all the anticipation for the event was well worth the wait.


The coaches and players should be proud of being a part of this unique and iconic event, but so should the folks at the National Hockey League, from Commissioner Gary Bettman to Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig to NHL Senior Vice President of Events Don Renzulli and everyone else involved who made this event so successful.

Make no doubt about it, the NHL took a risk a couple years ago putting this game on New Years Day in Buffalo, a day that was usually reserved for bowl games in college football. But, with fewer bowl games scheduled on January 1 these days (thanks to that system called the BCS) the NHL took advantage of their opportunity, and created an iconic event that even the casual sports fan should watch.

So now the question can be asked: Where should next year’s Winter Classic take place?

Many people think that the new Yankee Stadium should be the frontrunner for the event, and with good reason. But, as our own Buddy Oakes pointed out via twitter, Yankee Stadium is scheduled to hold a bowl game starting this upcoming December. The agreement signed in September is a four-year deal.

With the way everything took place this year at Fenway starting December 18 with the legends skate, one would think Yankee Stadium would be out of the running. However, according to Andrew Gross at NorthJersey.com, the bowl game at Yankee Stadium currently does not have a TV contract as of yet, which means nothing is set in stone.

Obviously if the unnamed bowl game at Yankee Stadium gets the TV contract, then that should be the nail in the coffin for the stadium at the Bronx for the 2011 Winter Classic. But, that doesn’t mean the game won’t be held in New York.

While everyone talks about the new home of the Yankees as a potential venue, Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) can certainly be accommodated right now, and would give the stadium front-page news if the NHL announces that the next Winter Classic will be held there.  The only way the NHL could put the Winter Classic in New York is if they were to put the game at the home of the Mets.

There’s always an argument that the game could be held at a football stadium.

Yes the first Winter Classic worked two years ago at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, but lets not forget that the NHL executives probably didn’t know that they probably didn’t know how big of an event the game would be that day.

Again, the NHL took a chance with this event, and it paid off.

One year after the first Winter Classic between the Penguins and Sabres, the Red Wings and Blackhawks battled it out on Wrigley Field, and it became the highest rated NHL regular season game televised in the United States in the last 13 years.
And while football stadiums can certainly accommodate bigger crowds, lets not forget the NHL would be taking a huge risk in putting the game at a pro football stadium, especially with the playoffs right around the corner.

“The football schedule is a little more complicated,” Bettman said before the game yesterday morning. “We get more time to set up and tear down and use more events, when the team [like a baseball team] isn’t playing for weeks.

“Being in an NFL stadium, even if we have to schedule around it, means we would have to worry about playoff games and what’s barely a two-week window in the last two games of the regular season are scheduled on the road, it would make things a little bit tougher.”

The NHL has taken the ball and is running with it. Now they have to capitalize on this year’s success and put the game in New York, regardless if its at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field.

Hey, Rangers vs. Caps sounds like a good Winter Classic to me on January 1, 2011.

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