It was reported in the Star Tribune that an outdoor game for the Minnesota Wild is now in the works. This is welcome news to Wild fans who have longed to bring an outdoor game to the State of Hockey since the inception of the Winter Classic. While factors like not having a major media market, nor a winning team to showcase have hindered Minnesota's chances at obtaining a Winter Classic, the Stadium Series expanded the amount of outdoor games to 6 this year, there's plenty of room to go around. That, combined with an up-and-coming team that's just won their first playoff series in 10 years, a strong traditional hockey market, and ideal weather for freezing over a stadium anywhere from October to May, are reasons why the Wild are finally getting an outdoor game nod.
What's up in the air right now is the opponent. Craig Leipold is apparently adamant that the Wild's opponent should be the Chicago Blackhawks, for several reasons. First of all, the Wild really want to make this Chicago rivalry happen, despite the fact that nothing blood-feud inducing has happened in 1.5 playoff series so far. Secondly, there are Hall-of-Fame-caliber players in Chicago that would draw national eyeballs to the game that may not be there otherwise. And, of course, one should not discount the fact that Chicago is a huge market that is geographically close to Minnesota, which presumably means more money involved.
The NHL reportedly wants the Dallas Stars to be the opponent for this Stadium Series game.
The most obvious reason for this is the Stars used to be (as I am sure many of you are unaware) Minnesota's team before the team was moved by Norm Green, the patron saint of sucking (so I've heard). So far, this fact has been unable to produce a rivalry, as Dallas and Minnesota have yet to play a lot of meaningful, intense games, let alone a playoff series.
So why would Dallas be Minnesota's opponent?
I'm sure the league wants Dallas in this game to provide the Stars with some national exposure. Texas is a huge market- one that supports three NBA Franchises, and that's if you don't count Oklahoma as part of the Stars' territory- that's more receptive to hockey than you might think, as they came out of the lockout regularly finishing in the top half in the league for attendance.
You had better believe that the NHL sees opportunity in that very community, and they could be looking to capitalize on their recent playoff appearance, as Dallas gave the Anaheim Ducks a run for their money in the quarterfinals.
If you are likely to be disappointed if Dallas were to be the Wild's outdoor opponent, you should re-consider. Much like the Wild, Dallas is another up-and-coming team in the deep Central Division.
Dallas is an exciting young team with a nice of offense and a fine- if not spectacular- defense, as well as some room to grow. They have star power. Tyler Seguin has the pedigree as a #2 overall pick, as well as the production to be the headliner for the Stars, but Jamie Benn is one of the league's best young goal-scorers, and Valeri Nichushkin had an excellent Age-18 season, and is only going to get better. Not to mention that, like the Wild, the Stars have a combination of young players and prospects that are expected to make important contributions to their teams in the next couple of years.
There's no question that the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues rule the Central Division right now. But in five years? It could be Minnesota and The Team Formerly Known as Minnesota dueling for Central supremacy.
While the Blackhawks would be a welcome opponent for the Minnesota Wild Stadium Series game, a Wild-Stars game could be a preview of the Central Division's future.