The NHL’s Winter Classic was a lot of wonderful things. It wasn’t, however, the dawn of a new era for NHL appeal in the United States.
A perfect storm gathered over Western New York, with a fantastic, rabid fan base in Buffalo; a masterful ice making job under difficult conditions by Dan Craig and his crew; a steady snowfall that made the game compelling, yet still playable; and a storybook shootout ending for the face of the league, Sidney Crosby, and his Penguins teammates.
It’s a winning concept that should be repeated on an occasional basis, perhaps once every couple years, not to chase a wider audience in the U.S., but to serve as a celebration and reward for people who are already fans of the game.
The 2.6 rating NBC pulled for the Snow Show in Buffalo was a pleasant bonanza, a 12-year high for a sport that has long resided in TV’s death valley.
But does anyone believe this was more than just a spectacle/curiosity for the fringe fan? If they weren’t already attracted to the traditional indoor product, how would this game change their minds? The product is still what it always has been.
And staging outdoor games more frequently – OK, I could live with once a year – would diminish their appeal and uniqueness.
Now the positive: The chatter about holding the game in a venerable location such as Yankee Stadium has me fascinated. Better still, what about Fenway Park? I recognize there may be some logistical issues and that Fenway only accommodates 38,505 for baseball, but imagine the setting and atmosphere if it were doable.
Boston, no longer as vibrant an NHL town as a decade ago, is still a strong hockey region, and this could serve as an oasis for long-starved Bruins fans. At the least, it’s worth investigating.
Here, in order of my preference, are 10 venues in which I’d love to see an outdoor game staged. Seating capacity is in parentheses:
1. Fenway Park, Boston (39,195)
2. Yankee Stadium, New York (57,545)
3. Wrigley Field, Chicago (41,118)
4. Coors Field, Denver (50,445)
5. Comerica Park, Detroit (41,070)
6. Texas Stadium, Irving, TX (65,812)
7. Heinz Field, Pittsburgh (65,050)
8. McMahon Stadium, Calgary (35,650)
9. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, (56,000)
10. Lincoln Field, Philadelphia (68,532)
Let us know when and where you’d like to see the next outdoor game, if at all.
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