I missed the NHL Winter Classic on Monday due to work (Damnit!), but after reading Adrian Dater’s Dec. 30 column on SI.com, I do think it is time to see an NHL Winter Classic in a Western city.
I’m not saying that because I live on the West Coast and root for a West Coast team (the Edmonton Oilers) or because this year’s Classic in Philadelphia wasn’t that cold. Just like I am in favor of a cold weather Super Bowl, I am in favor of a Western (or warm weather )Winter Classic because just like the locations the game has been in previously, there are fans out here who would love to see a game outdoors. Contrary to popular belief, people do love hockey out here, probably not nearly as much as they do back east, but we do enjoy hockey here. You mean to tell me you couldn’t fill 42,000 plus inside AT&T Park to see the Sharks play a winter matchup? I know for sure you could,plus during any time of the year it is freezing there at night, you could have a 5pm start so people back east can see the game, and if an eastern team like the Washington Capitals has to be involved so the ratings are better, than so be it.
I could also see Mile High Stadium (or Coors Field) in Denver playing host to an Avalanche matchup. Hell, you could even do this at Target Field in Minneapolis for a Wild game. Or even at Busch Stadium in St. Louis with the Blues. The possibilities are endless.
So far, they have played the Winter Classic in Buffalo, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. All cold weather cities mainly on the East Coast. I enjoy the Winter Classic, I think it’s a great idea and it gives sports fans who don’t necessarily want to watch a bunch of meaningless college football bowl games with two 7-5 teams facing each other an alternative. However, having only Eastern teams brings to it a lack of variety. Dater states in his column that next year in 2013 “cannot be held in Pittsburgh or Philadelphia or Boston, and it cannot involve just the Penguins, Flyers, Bruins and a few other Eastern teams. Otherwise, it’s going to get stale.” I agree, you can only see the Penguins and Flyers in this game so much. Yes,I know this game is only five years old, but the more Eastern cities get to host this game, the more West Coast fans will be turned off.
Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the NHL, needs to and should do everything possible to make his league more appealing to fans who don’t live off of I-95 or in Canada and I think spreading the wealth with the Winter Classic is a good start.