In 2008, the NHL decided to do an event that would not only increase the revenue, but get more and more people excited about hockey again. On New Years day, the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. It was the first outdoor game in over four years and after having over 70,000 in attendance, the NHL wanted to make sure the Winter Classic was an annual event.
Since the first Winter Classic in 2008, the league has had one every season, but for the upcoming 2013-14 season, the league wanted to kick it up a notch. The NHL will hold six outdoor games next season, as the demand for outdoor games is becoming higher in demand.
The first game will be on New Years day when the Red Wings will host the Maple Leafs at the Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Four days later, the Los Angeles Kings will host the Anaheim Ducks at Dodgers Stadium, marking the first NHL game being staged west of the Mississippi. In January, Yankee Stadium will be the venue of two Rangers outdoor games. The first one will be against the Devils and three days later will host the Islanders. In March, the Chicago Blackhawks will host the Pittsburgh Penguins, then later in the month, Vancouver will host Ottawa in Vancouver.
It will be a great thing for the sport of hockey, increasing ticket sales, TV viewers and may bring back some of the fans that are still holding grudges over the 2004-05 lockout. As you all know, I mainly cover the Minnesota Wild and am a Minnesota native, so I may get a bit biased on you for a bit here. After 5 years of Winter Classics, and another six to come next season alone, it still boggles my mind that Minnesota, The State of Hockey, has not hosted a sngle Winter Classic.
Minnesota has always had a deep history in the game of hockey. We have Herb Brooks, who coached the Gophers to multiple titles, and led the 1980 Olympic Hockey team to the gold, which we all know as the "Miracle on Ice". Thousands of people flood in for Gopher, Beaver, Huskie and Bulldogs college games, and continualy pack the Xcel each year for the Highschool State HockeyTournament. Everyone knows that the U.S has a Hockey day in America, but Minnesota also has a Hockey Day in Minnesota, where the day is packed with televised outdoor highschool games, activites for kids, and prime time college and Wild games.
Next to Canada, it doesn't get much better than Minnesota hockey. Minnesota has two great stadiums where a Winter Classic could be held: Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins, and TCF Bank Stadium, home of Golden Gophers Football. TCF Bank Stadiumwas opened in 2009 and has the capacity to hold over 50,000 people. Target Field is a little smaller, able to hold just under 40,000 fans. Both stadiums are beautiful in design and the seats come a lot closer to the field, unlike some of the other stadiums that have hosted Winter Classics. The closer seats would enhance the crowds enjoyment of the game and create an overall better experience.
I think Gary Bettman (NHL commissioner) needs to focus a little more on the game of hockey and it's histroy and heritage, rather than host games in bigger cities just to generate more money. The fact that California is hosting an outdoor hockey game before Minnesota just doesn't make sense at all. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but when I think of outdoor hockey, I think of Minnesota, Winnipeg, Boston, Detroit, and Vancouver, not Los Angeles, or California in general. Minnesota deserves a Winter Classic and I think it would be very wise for Bettman to take it into serious consideration in the near future.