Since the day he bought the Wild, owner Craig Leipold has been advocating for Minnesota to host the Winter Classic. It makes sense, right? Where else in the U.S. is outdoor hockey such a fabric of people's lives as it is in Minnesota? On the surface, it seems ridiculous that we have had to sit back and play 3rd fiddle to the teams on the east coast. Now the waiting has become nearly unbearable as teams such as the Flyers and Penguins are enjoying their 2nd Winter Classic invitation without Minnesota receiving any serious consideration.
But as we all know, the decision on where to host the Winter Classic goes far beyond picking based upon hockey hot-beds and deserving fans. Follow me through the jump as we decide whether or not images of snowflakes collecting on Brodziak's mustache (#signbrodziak) should be dancing through Wild fans' heads in 2012-2013.
Why Minnesota should host the 2013 Winter Classic:
Target Field: Voted the #1 Stadium experience by ESPN the Magazine, Target Field is a stunning venue nestled in the Warehouse District of west downtown Minneapolis. The baseball stadium seats 39,504 and would support a lower attendance than TCF Bank Stadium. However, the utilization of a baseball stadium and its lower capacity is not unprecedented (Fenway brought in 38,112 fans in 2010 and Wrigley seated 40,818 in 2009).
TCF Bank Stadium: The horseshoe shaped football stadium is located on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. It boasts a higher capacity than Target Field, with 50,805 seats, and provides better sight-lines than a baseball field. Bettman has said in the past he prefers to host Winter Classics in football stadiums due to the better sight-lines and would only consider baseball stadiums if it's a particularly historic venue. (i.e. not Target Field)
The Weather: The average temperature on January 1st in Minneapolis is a balmy 16°F. Combine that with the ice expertise brought in by our own Travis Larson, and it's possible Minnesota could provide the best ice a Winter Classic has ever seen.
The Fans: Arguably the greatest asset Minnesota brings to a Winter Classic. A Winter Classic in Minneapolis would bring about a state holiday in Minnesota. The Twin Cities revolve around the state tournament when it is in town, imagine the effect a once in a decade event like the Winter Classic would have. This game would sell-out, period. Doesn't matter the Wild's record, who they play, or where they play, Minnesotans will flock to the Winter Classic.
Beyond attendance issues, Minnesotans deserve to host the Winter Classic. It's the premiere (regular season) event for professional hockey. Sure, hosting the draft and the All-star game are fun tid-bits, but neither spot lights our team or our hockey tradition. Hockey, and outdoor hockey specifically, is a defining characteristic of a Minnesotan. Along with ice fishing, kind manners, and wearing shorts when the thermometer hits 50, we eat, sleep and breathe hockey (don't chya know?).
Why Minnesota won't get the Winter Classic:
The Wild: The Wild have one of the weakest non-regional fan bases in the NHL. Casual fans just do not gravitate towards the Wild. We don't have a Crosby type All-Star, we don't play for a popular metropolitan area like Boston, Philly or New York, and we still carry the undeserved tag of a boring team who relies on the trap and stingy goal-tending to over come our lack of talent.
The Match-up: The Wild do not have a great American rivalry to highlight an event such as the Winter Classic.
Dallas Stars: For Minnesotans, the sexy choice is Dallas because scars run deep. But who else would care about this match-up? I don't even think Stars fans buy into this "rivalry" as much as we do.
Vancouver Canucks: For me, the clear choice is Vancouver because they are arguably our biggest rival. However, Canadian teams traditionally do not participate in the Winter Classic.
Winnipeg Jets: See Canucks. Geographically close, but Canadian and no rivalry.
Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago is geographically our nearest American opponent, but any rivalry that was there left with the Norris division. Hopefully the realignment will renew this rivalry, but right now the only positive to be taken from this match-up is the inclusion of the Chicagoland area's affect on television ratings.
$$$$$$: It's all about the benjamins, baby. The event itself would be a huge success for the local economy with ticket, hotel, bar and restaurant revenue, but that is not the NHL's or Bettman's concern. The whole point of the Winter Classic is to "grow the brand" and generate money through television ratings and advertisement. As previously covered, the Wild do not draw in a large national audience because they don't have any marketable superstars and their regional fan base is small compared the the populations surrounding New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. They also do not have a regional opponent that could sufficiently boost ratings enough to make up for it. If the Wild do end up getting the Winter Classic, we will certainly be matched up against the Blackhawks or Red Wings for this reason alone.
Forget about generating revenue for one year, Bettman. Minnesota deserves the Winter Classic regardless of the ratings it will garner. 2013 Winter Classic: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium.
What do you think Wilderness?