The NHL Winter Classic has been an experience of a lifetime among NHL fans around the United States. In 2008, the very first Winter Classic in the U.S. was in Buffalo, New York between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where 71,217 attended the first outdoor NHL game in the United States. In 2009, the second Winter Classic took place between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in Chicago in a match-up featuring two of the original six NHL teams. The instant success of the Winter Classic has made it become an annual event during the NHL regular season.
This coming season we will see the Philadelphia Flyers battle the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park in Boston. The Bruins are an original six team, so there's appeal there to have them in a Winter Classic. The Flyers have young stars like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Claude Giroux so there's appeal there as well to market those players since a lot of NHL fans don't get to see them play on a national stage that often. So that takes 6 of the 30 NHL teams out of the talk about the Winter Classic after the Flyers and Bruins play on New Year's Day in 2010. That leaves the other 24 teams out of the mix at the moment. We have no clue where the next Winter Classic will take place. There have been rumors that Calgary is a possibility for the next one, although nothing has been finalized as of yet. I don't have a problem with the idea of a Winter Classic in Canada, but I do have a problem with the idiocy of a man named Gary Bettman and the fact that the idea of a Winter Classic in Minnesota has yet to happen, especially if those Calgary rumors from awhile ago become a reality.
Now we come to the big question: why does a Winter Classic need to happen sooner rather than later? The main reason is that the fine folks in Minnesota love their hockey more than any other people in the United States. It doesn't matter if it's high school hockey, college hockey or professional hockey, we love it all the same and crave it all the same. Every year, the boys and girls state high school tournament sells out at Xcel Energy Center, as well as the WCHA Final Five tournament that is also held at Xcel Energy Center. And then there's the Minnesota Wild... 367 straight sellouts, the longest active streak in the NHL to date. Those 367 straight sellouts are every SINGLE home game that the Wild have ever played, pre-season, regular season and playoffs. That's how much we love hockey here and that's the way it will always be. Hockey is our life here in Minnesota. We eat, sleep and breathe hockey all year long.
Venues for a Winter Classic in Minnesota would not be a problem at all. Although I'm not a fan of outdoor hockey games being played at baseball stadiums, brand new Target Field where the Twins will play starting next year in downtown Minneapolis seats close to 40,000 people. But 40,000 people at an outdoor hockey game isn't good enough in my book, and neither is the idea of another Winter Classic at a baseball stadium. I love me some Twins baseball and the sport of baseball itself, minus the players taking steroids, lying to the public about not using them and later admitting that they did, and tainted records that have been broken due to players injecting steroids into their bodies, which sends the wrong message to little kids that it's okay to do something as long as you improve your individual performance, don't get caught, or don't respect the game and every player that paved the opportunity to make your boyhood dream come true. The idea of another Winter Classic at a baseball stadium? I'd rather watch the Vikings play, and I hate them so now you have an idea of how much I hate the idea of outdoor hockey being played at a baseball stadium.
In my opinion, football stadiums are better suited for outdoor hockey games, which is why the better alternative to that is TCF Bank Stadium which is also located in downtown Minneapolis. The capacity of TCF Bank Stadium is a little over 50,000. But it gets better: expansion allows it to hold 80,000 people. Let me paint a picture for all of you: New Year's Day sometime in the near future. A cold, wintry day in Minneapolis, Minnesota with temperatures possibly being below 0. TCF Bank Stadium hosting an NHL Winter Classic with 80,000 fans in the State of Hockey outside watching their team play an outdoor game. I get chills thinking about it and I'm sure everyone else in Minnesota does as well. I want it to happen more than anything in the world. Friends of mine that don't live here want it to happen. This entire state wants it to happen. It doesn't matter who we play, whether it's Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Colorado, Columbus or Dallas, we just want to see it happen. We want an outdoor hockey game in Minnesota and we want it soon. We're tired of having to wait and watch other teams play in a Winter Classic, only to wait and wonder when Gary Bettman will do something right for once and let the State of Hockey host this unforgettable event. Tick tock, Bettman... tick tock. We're waiting, and we're getting angered in the process. Make the dreams of every Minnesotan a reality.