Winter Classic Review, Part 2: Where to Go From Here?

The Winter Classic is unique in that it remains a yearly success that prompts the question “So, what next?”. For a successful event, it sure does drive hockey fans batty with uncertainty This is one of my favorite issues that the game features. Since we won’t know where the next one is for nearly four months, almost all that time can be spent speculating and rumor-mongering on where it’ll be. That’s fun to do. Clearly, based on ratings, the Winter Classic is something that hockey fans care about a ton.

So here are a few things that need to happen next year:

1. This may seem obvious, but move the game to January 2nd. I’m sure the NHL is well ahead of me on this one. Obviously, next Christmas and New Years Day are on a Sunday, meaning the NFL is going to co-opt those to days to continue it’s ratings domination of planet earth. So, do what the BCS and all the other bowl games the NHL typically faces off against and take it to January 2nd. Certainly ratings will take a small hit, but if you promote it even heavier than before, you’ve got a shot.

2. Primetime needs to stay, but with a twist. Maybe this won’t work with the game airing January 2nd this time around, but keep the game in primetime. That was such a terrific accident. Literally every hockey person in the solar system must have thought to themselves “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?”. Of course primetime! That’s when television’s biggest stars come out to shine, and this league badly needs the credibility of at least one primetime showcase per year.

Here’s the twist I’d like to see: Get NBC to show a game in the afternoon, with the studio show live from whatever stadium is involved. Make the game between last year’s Winter Classic competitors, or whoever you think would draw the best ratings. The numbers for the Winter Classic timeslot (1-4PM ET) were good enough to show that hockey fans are clearly in the mood for their sport more than ever on New Year’s Day, so why not try to extend your hold on the holiday?

3. The New York Rangers must be involved. I say this as a lifelong Devils fan: It is ridiculous that the Rangers still haven’t been put in a Winter Classic. Especially now, that the team is fun and good again, the NHL needs to get them in next year, as they’re currently the only original six American club that hasn’t, as of yet. Whether its at home or on the road, the Broadway Blueshirts need to play in a game that won’t make their third jerseys look ridiculous.

4. What the hell, let’s go southern this time. The challenge with the Winter Classic remains finding something new to do with it. So … why not see if you can pull it off in a southern city? They have the machines that can produce the ice anywhere, so what the hell? Why not gamble on something? You have little to lose from trying, since the fans don’t care that much about the quality of ice.

Here’s my suggestion: Rangers-Stars at Cowboys Stadium. Jerry Jones wants it, I’m sure the Stars wouldn’t object, I’m sure the Rangers wouldn’t object. It keeps New York involved while the league waits for Yankee Stadium to get rid of that insipid bowl game they keep trying to convince us is worthwhile. It plays on the longstanding rivalry between the Giants and Cowboys, and the cultural differences between New York and Dallas. If you can get the ice done, the NHL could score with this.

5 Responses to Winter Classic Review, Part 2: Where to Go From Here?

  1. jkrdevil says:

    The Cotton Bowl is played on January 2nd in Cowboys Stadium.

    • Josh says:

      Actually this year it’s being played on January 7th. That means that there *might* be enough wiggle room for it. I don’t know much about ice-making and engineering, but I do know that the hockey configuration takes *a lot* longer to put up than it does to take down. You might be able to do it if you can convince the Cowboys to play their last two weeks on the road. You set up the ice, and then you take it down the 3rd, 4th and 5th and maybe one or two days is enough time to get the football field in good enough shape for the ballgame?

      I think it probably would be, considering that if the Steelers were playing at home in the wild card round this season, they would have only had 6 or 7 days to take down the rink and get the grass to playing condition.

  2. E says:

    I like the idea of a 1pm afternoon game and then the outdoor game at night in prime time at 8pm.
    Dallas is a terrible idea for the outdoor game. They need to show the winter atmosphere of the game. I think the Rangers at Minnesota Wild would be a good matchup. It would be a great opportunity to showcase the roots of Minnesota hockey.
    I would like to see a game between Dallas and St Louis in the afternoon, and Rangers-Minnesota at night.
    To expand the growth of the game, the NHL needs to use this event to show other teams besides Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston, and Chicago..

  3. Stu Dolgon says:

    The first four Winter Classics were between teams that geographically weren’t that far apart. (Pittsburgh-Buffalo, Detroit-Chicago, Philadelphia-Boston, Washington-Pittsburgh. I think this allows fans of the away team to easily travel to the game site. I believe this works well for the NHL to show fans of both teams are there. If next year’s game is at Lincoln Financial (Philadelphia), which Pierre LeBrun said was currently on the top of the NHL’s list, it would be perfect for the Rangers to be the away team. Certainly Rangers-Dallas or Rangers-Minnesota would make it difficult for Ranger season subscribers (like me) to attend.

  4. Josh says:

    This is kind of a wild idea I realize, but maybe at some point down the road, you could do Rangers-Bruins somewhere in Connecticut – possibly Yale Stadium. It’s an old, historic venue, it seats in the neighbourhood of 64K and it’s midway between the two franchises, so you’d see a pretty great atmosphere in the stands. Just throwin’ it out there half-seriously, anyway.

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