The scuttlebutt at the Winter Classic last month was that the 2017 edition of the event would either take place in Toronto, as part of the Maple Leafs’ centennial celebration, or feature a showdown between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
The decision’s yet to be made, but ESPN’s Scott Burnside reports that the Flyers vs. Penguins game is all but booked for next season – likely at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, marking the first time the NHL has revisited a venue. The Penguins hosted the Washington Capitals in 2011 in the Winter Classic.
(No, we’re not counting the New York Rangers’ two games at Yankee Stadium in the season month.)
OK, we know what you’re asking: What happened to having this game at Penn State, the perfect neutral site and party zone?
The two state rivals have been talking for months about a plan for an outdoor game or series of outdoor games. There was discussion about playing an outdoor game at Penn State, but it’s believed financial demands by the university soured the teams on the neutral site as an option, so the two franchises have been looking at a reciprocal arrangement with an outdoor game played one year in Pittsburgh and a second game in Philadelphia perhaps the following year.
So now we wait to see if this game gets Winter Classic or Stadium Series honors. One potential wrinkle – the availability of Heinz Field if and when the Steelers make the playoffs.
Bottom line: Flyers. Penguins. In a stadium. This is going to be intense. In the stands, we mean.