Friday, January 28, 2022

Winter Classic: Potential sites and matchups for the 2023 edition of NHL’s outdoor event

The 2022 Winter Classic was one of the coldest sporting events that has ever been played, but it didn’t seem to affect the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild. The teams combined for 10 goals in a 6-4 Blues win in which it was -8 degrees outside in the first period. 

With the 2022 Winter Classic officially in the books, it’s time to start trying to figure out where the NHL could elect to hold their annual outdoor game in 2023. Normally, the Winter Classic features more historic teams in an MLB, NFL or college football stadium that can hold upwards of 40,000 people at the very least.

There’s many iconic venues that have already hosted a Winter Classic, but there’s also plenty that have never had the pleasure of doing so. As such, there’s an abundance of directions in which the NHL could go when it comes to the Winter Classic. Here are some potential locations and matchups that could be selected for the 2023 Winter Classic.

Venue: Yankee Stadium

Possible Matchup: Rangers vs. Islanders

A battle of New York would certainly be an intriguing one and even more special at a venue as iconic as Yankee Stadium. It’s worth noting that the Rangers would have to be the away team no matter what. Madison Square Garden would be risking a property tax exemption of over $40 million per year if any of their home teams (that includes the Rangers) were to play “home games” in New York City other than at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

All of that aside, Yankee Stadium has no issue hosting non-MLB related events. It annually hosts the Pinstripe Bowl and is also the home of the New York City FC. The Rangers and Islanders have been near the top half of the Eastern Conference standings in recent years, so this matchup would likely come with a ton of bragging rights for the winning team.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Possible Matchup: Flyers vs. Penguins

If you’re talking about hockey in the northeast, you have to mention the battle of Pennsylvania between the Flyers and Penguins. Despite the two teams having a combined four appearances in the Winter Classic since its inception, we’ve never seen the Flyers and Penguins do battle on one of the biggest stages that the sport has to offer. Both teams have hosted the Winter Classic with the Penguins hosting at Heinz Field in 2011 and the Flyers hosting at Citizens Bank Park in 2012. Beaver Stadium, which serves as the home stadium to Penn State’s football team, holds a seating capacity of over 106,000 and would be a great neutral venue for these two teams to face off at. 

Venue: Nissan Stadium

Possible Matchup: Blackhawks vs. Predators

The Predators did participate in the 2020 Winter Classic when they took on the Stars at the Cotton Bowl. However, it’s time that Nashville is able to host a Winter Classic of their own. We’ve seen six different Winter Classics being held at football stadiums and it’s been a great way to pack in the fans. Nashville is a great destination for anybody to travel to and having an Original Six team like the Blackhawks involved would really make this a must-see matchup.

Venue: Fenway Park

Possible Matchup: Lightning vs. Bruins

There’s never anything wrong with visiting an old Winter Classic venue. It helps that Fenway Park is one of the most iconic venues in sports. The Bruins did host the Flyers back in the 2010 Winter Classic, but it would be great to have the Green Monster serve as an iconic backdrop again. A matchup with the Lightning would be a lot of fun as both teams are usually near the top of the East and the Lightning aren’t really able to ever host the Winter Classic since their home base is in Florida.

Venue: Lambeau Field

Possible Matchup: Blackhawks vs. Red Wings

Is there a more iconic NFL stadium than Lambeau Field? Not in my book. That’s why it would be a great idea for the NHL to hold a Winter Classic at the home of the Green Bay Packers. It’s worth noting that Wisconsin doesn’t have a professional hockey team in the state. However, the Red Wings are the next closest team to Green Bay and have plenty of allure when it comes to a historic tradition. On the other hand, the Blackhawks have been involved in four Winter Classics. Having a matchup of two Original Six teams at a venue that is ripe with tradition like Lambeau Field would be an absolutely phenomenal event for the NHL. 

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