The Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins could be taking their rivalry outdoors next season.
According to ESPN’s Scott Burnside, the Flyers and Penguins have been in discussions for an outdoor game in 2017, but there’s currently no decision on whether or not the potential game could be a Stadium Series outing or be next season’s Winter Classic.
If the Flyers and Penguins do play outdoors, it appears Pittsburgh will again be the host of an outdoor game. Previously, the Penguins hosted the 2011 Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals, and the home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers again appears to be the frontrunner to host the game. If the game is played at Heinz Field, it would be the second venue to host two outdoor games. Yankee Stadium hosted consecutive Stadium Series games for the New York Rangers in 2014.
Burnside reported the two franchises have been working together to either have one outdoor game or an outdoor series that would see a second game between the two teams played the following season at a venue in Philadelphia. According to Burnside, Penn State was brought up as a potential venue, but “it’s believed financial demands by the university soured the teams on the neutral site as an option.”
If the Penguins and Flyers do have an outdoor game, it would be the fourth time Pittsburgh played in an outdoor tilt and third such game for Philadelphia.
The other city in the running for the Winter Classic, Burnside wrote, is Minnesota. The Wild are set to host a Stadium Series game this season against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium. It’s the Wild’s first outdoor tilt.
If Pittsburgh or Minnesota get the Winter Classic, though, it could potentially throw a wrench in the plans of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 100th anniversary celebration.
For months reports have swirled the Winter Classic next season would be part of the Toronto’s centennial anniversary, but Burnside reported there has been hesitation on the NHL’s part because there’s uncertainty about the viability of putting the league’s premier outdoor contest in Ontario’s capital next season. With Toronto already hosting the World Cup in September and the Grey Cup in November, a third major sporting event could be a risk or hurt ticket sales for the World Cup.
The other option for Toronto, though, would be either a Heritage Classic contest or one of the multiple Stadium Series games which have now become a staple of the schedule. The Winnipeg Jets are believed to be in the running for an outdoor game — commissioner Gary Bettman even went so far as to say the league owed the Jets an outdoor game — but that could potentially be shuffled back to 2018 in order to get Toronto on the outdoor schedule to coincide with their centennial.