Now that the Christmas holiday is behind us, it’s time to start thinking about the Winter Classic. While the game has lost some of its luster, it is still the premier mid-season event for the game of hockey. Even with the Stadium Series watering down the Classic, there are still a bunch of games that would create a special event for everyone. As great as it is to get fans to the game, this is truly a television spectacular, and that should be the focus of this event. Unfortunately, due to the contract with NBC this will be a very American list since NBC ratings don’t count for anything in Canada.
This Year’s Stanley Cup Champion at Las Vegas- Sam Boyd Stadium
This would be a great introduction to the new Las Vegas Golden Knights. This game would be a great way to continue building a fan base. Las Vegas is absolutely an event town, and with an expansion team the chances of truly great things happening are slim, giving them one more guaranteed big time event will give the city of Las Vegas an opportunity to embrace the game. Bringing in this year’s Stanley Cup Champion will only continue to add to this event.
Islanders vs Kings-Dodger Stadium
This is an opportunity to fix a past Stadium Series mistake. Allowing another game at Dodger Stadium would be a great way to showcase the game in Southern California. Having a New York-Los Angeles Winter Classic is one we have never seen before and neither the Kings or the Isles have been over exposed on a national scale. The added context of a professional sports team from Brooklyn playing at Dodger Stadium is the final detail that will make this game memorable.
Hurricanes vs Predators Bristol Motor Speedway
There are very few major venues types that the NHL has not hosted a game in. Bristol may be the best option, with a seating capacity of 162,000 this would be able to blow away every other attendance record (it will be tougher to sell tickets here than in Michigan). Since it is a short track, the seating areas are much more confined which would allow more fans to watch the game. Bristol is on the border of Tennessee and Virginia but is close enough to Raleigh that the Hurricanes would be a practical opponent.
Flyers vs Penguins-Beaver Stadium
Both of these teams have had plenty of outdoor opportunities, and are actually playing again this year at Heinz Field, but that is a huge mistake. The better option would have been to have these two meet in the middle as the play Pennsylvania bragging rights. The entire state would love to see these two go play at State College, this is a matchup that could be repeated under these circumstances.
Stars vs Wild-Target Field
Last year the Wild hosted the Stadium Series but they could have done it a whole lot better. First and foremost, the best opponent is the former Minnesota North Stars. The pregame festivities would be a great tribute to the State of Hockey, having alumni from the Wild, North Stars, and even the Golden Gophers would make this a can’t miss weekend. Playing at Target Field would give this game a different look than at the University of Minnesota, unless they can put bleachers around a random lake.
Rangers vs Stars-Ballpark in Arlington
Cowboys Stadium would be the obvious choice but since they have a bowl game and it’s basically a dome it does not really work for a New Year’s Day Outdoor game. The solution is to go next door to play at the home of the Texas Rangers. Since the rivalry with the Minnesota is one way there is freedom to bring in another team, so why not the New York Rangers to play at the home of the Texas Rangers.
Red Wings vs Blue Jackets-Ohio Stadium
After having a game at the big house, playing hockey at the Horseshoe only makes sense. Allowing the Blue Jackets to enter the discussion should be easier now that they have improved and may be an interesting team in the future. There is no other choice then to bring in the Red Wings. It will make for an interesting game but this time the team in blue is from Ohio and the team in red is from Michigan. I would love to see the band play on ice and see a person on skates dot the I.
Canucks vs Seattle-Seahawks Stadium
By the time, we get down the list a little bit more the NHL will expand another team, and Seattle has as good a chance as anybody. As with the Golden Knights this would be a great way to introduce a new team to the league but instead of the Stanley Cup Champ coming in allow them to play their new natural rival in the Vancouver Canucks.
Canadians vs Capitals-Wembley Stadium London
If the NFL can go to London why not the NHL. With teams getting extended time of in the schedule in the future there is no reason a game can’t go to Europe to excite the fans over there. While the game itself doesn’t really matter getting a game into a new country should really help the game grow. American hockey fans would tune in to see at least one NHL game in England.
Sabres vs Islanders-Belmont Park
With the recent talk about the Isles possibly, maybe (almost definitely not) building a new arena in Elmont by the racetrack there is no reason why they can’t play on the actual race track. With Belmont closed for the season it will allow the NHL to get in to change the grounds to create the event. Even though they only have seating on the one side it can still hold enough people to make the event memorable. It would be a great sight to see the Islanders come out to only the guy playing the trumpet. For a game looking for unique environments Belmont may be the most unique venue while being a little bit plausible.